French book industry prepares to lobby presidential candidates

French book industry prepares to lobby presidential candidates

Vincent Monadé, president of the French National Book Centre (Centre National du Livre, CNL), yesterday called for all institutions in the book sector to join forces and prepare a common set of proposals for books to present to candidates in the French presidential election to be held in two rounds on 23rd April and 7th May.

“Books are the leading cultural industry,” Monadé said at the CNL’s new year reception. “Culture has been rather forgotten in the lead-up to the election campaigns ahead. We cannot accept that.”

A common platform “is an interesting initiative,” said Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE).  “We will certainly discuss it with the CNL and within the SNE. For the moment, we haven’t decided how to approach the election campaigns,” he told The Bookseller.

Guillaume Husson, director of the French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française, SLF), also welcomed the initiative. “We would be in favour of a common platform stressing major principles, such as fixed book prices, copyright and promoting reading,” he said. “But that would not preclude us from presenting candidates with our own more detailed programme.” The SLF’s proposals to candidates in the last presidential election in 2012 and led to the 2013 plan for booksellers.

In a clear warning to the next president and parliament, which will be elected in two rounds on 11th June and 18th June, Monadé said “in time the existence of the CNL will be threatened if nothing is done to halt the decline in its tax revenues.”  Meanwhile, the culture ministry is drawing up a plan for fresh sources of cash for the centre, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

The CNL reports to the culture ministry and provides subsidies and other financial support to all players in the book industry. It is funded mainly by a tax of 3.25% on the sale of printers, photocopiers and scanners, and also by a 0.2% tax that publishers with an annual turnover of more than 76,300 euros pay on their sales through bookshops.

But the recent drop in revenues means Monadé presented a 2017 budget in December based on receipts of only 28 million euros, sharply less than the annual ceiling of 34.5 million euros allowed by the finance ministry.

“We have to make choices, often painful, and focus on our core mission—supporting authors, publishers and booksellers, as well as digitising our heritage,” Monadé said. In the past three years, he has “drastically” reduced operating costs, he added.