Google has no plans to become a publisher, claims de la Mora

Google has no plans to become a publisher, claims de la Mora

Google will not be entering the publishing ring, VAT on e-books is handicapping the European market and the future is not digital, delegates at the opening day of a Unesco conference on reading have heard.

The conference, The Book Tomorrow: The Future of the Written Word is taking place in Monza, Italy. In the opening panel discussion called The E-book Economy, Santiago de la Mora, Google Book Search's partnership lead for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said Google would not follow its fellow internet giant Amazon in launching imprints. He said: "Google won't become publishers, we are facilitators," he said. "We work very closely with publishers across the world and place the role of trying to make books available as widely as possible; that is our role."

Riccardo Cavellero, general manager of the trade books division of Mondadori, Italy's largest publisher, used his spot on the panel to round on the high VAT rates for e-books throughout Europe, in particular because publishers in EU countries are competing in a global marketplace. He said: "It is obvious that it is a huge benefit to those other countries that don't have [high VAT rates]. I'm not going to say this will stifle digital growth, because it will come. But it will be heavily damaging and a hindrance."

Cavellero also said the real shift in the digital world was the way publishers need to relate to their customers. "The change is not with other stake holders, but with readers. We are in the midst of a shift, with power moving from the publisher to the readers. We have to cultivate direct relationships with our readers, which isn't really part of publishing's DNA. Either we change the way we work, or we don't survive."

The conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Robert Darnton, director of the University Library at Harvard, who has also written extensively on digital books. He outlined what he said were several misconceptions about digital, including that the future is digital. He argued while digital was increasing, new modes of electronic communication would increasingly be paired with old ones, pointing to the success of print on demand and the Espresso Book Machine.

The Book Tomorrow conference is part of Unesco's Focus series, a biannual event that features an aspect of the arts or culture. Two hundred publishers, librarians, booksellers, writers and media professionals are attending the three-day event.