The new government should be stronger on copyright, more supportive of the arts and place more emphasis on libraries, trade figures have told The Bookseller.
Ahead of the general election on 7th May, industry figures have revealed what they believe should be priorities for incoming MPs. While legislative changes feature heavily, there is also a desire for writers and the creative arts to be valued more. “Books, authors, publishers, bookshops and libraries are integral to the cultural fabric of our country,” said Tim Walker, Booksellers Association (BA) president. “They are our cultural heritage. I would like to see the new government put books and the book trade at the very heart of its support for the UK’s creative industries.”
Sam Edenborough, president of the Association of Authors’ Agents (AAA), said: “We hope that when Number 10 throws a party to celebrate talented people it will remember to invite authors, not just soap stars.”
Nicola Solomon, c.e.o. of the Society of Authors (SoA), said the group wanted “to see culture generally treated as important”, with the government fostering an environment where “bookshops are supported and arts are encouraged, for their own sake as well as an economic driver”.
Blackwell’s digital director Kieron Smith said there should be “protection of investment in the arts so our vibrant small presses continue to do good work”, while Richard Mollet, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association (PA), said he wanted to see continuity in the work of the Creative Industries Council, which has given the creative industries a “coherent voice directly into senior levels of government”.
Writers will have the chance to question politicians—including Ed Vaizey (Conservative), Chris Bryant (Labour) and Martin Horwood (Liberal Democrats), and potentially candidates from Plaid Cymru, the SNP and UKIP—next week at hustings hosted by the SoA and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).
Copyright / IP
Copyright is hot on trade bodies’ agendas for 2015, with many calling for a collaborative approach as well as for the government to “stop fiddling” with it.
SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon said there was a need for a “copyright tsar” to foster a more “joined-up approach” to copyright. She added that she did not want more copyright exceptions, and wanted to “see creators better supported”.
The ALCS stated that it wanted to see the government “support the interests of UK authors/creators in the current EU copyright debate”.
AAA president Sam Edenborough said the “old chestnut” was: “Stop fiddling with copyright, and let us do our jobs and carry on being successful.”
But John Dolan, chair of the CILIP policy committee, said that the next government could “support research, innovation and growth by continuing to reform copyright laws”.
The general consensus in the trade is that libraries need more funding and to be valued more.
Waterstones managing director James Daunt said libraries should be “the real focus of a new government” because they are “the grass-roots of the industry”. “I would like to see a commitment to libraries from the next government, which seems to be absent at the moment,” he said. While the PA welcomed the work of the Sieghart Review, PA c.e.o. Richard Mollet said: “There have been two reviews but the inadequate funding means you’re not going to address the core problems.”
John Dolan, chair of the CILIP policy committee, said the next government “needs to get the power of professionally delivered library and information services to improve literacy, support education and underpin the UK’s economy”.
Meanwhile, the ALCS said it wanted the government to “establish a transparent and flexible regime for paying authors for public lending of e-books”.
Conservative MP and author Nadine Dorries told The Bookseller: “Libraries are at the heart of communities and they play an absolutely vital role in giving less privileged people access to knowledge, aspiration and, as a result, opportunity. No council should ever close a single library, and I am proud that in my own constituency that has been the case.”
A meaningful review of business rates and the introduction (and effective implementation) of the so-called “Google tax” is high among booksellers’ wishes.
Tim Godfray, chief executive of the BA, said: “The BA would like any new government, post-election, to support the need for a fair marketplace within the book trade, so that consumers have a wide choice of places to discover and buy books.”
A “fundamental reform” of business rates should be on the next government’s agenda, said Godfray. Waterstones m.d. James Daunt concurred, and said business rates “are manifestly unfair and a huge burden to shops across the majority of the country”.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that from April a diverted profits tax—the so-called Google Tax—would be imposed on companies such as Amazon and Google, which shift profits outside of the UK to headquarters in Luxembourg and Ireland in order to avoid paying corporation tax.
School libraries are top of the agenda for numerous trade figures The Bookseller spoke to, with many individuals wanting them to be made compulsory.
The SoA wants libraries in all state-funded schools, with a sufficient number of books available to pupils and a nominated library specialist among the staff.
AAA president Sam Edenborough said the AAA wanted to see a library in “every school”, with PA c.e.o. Richard Mollet saying it was “astonishing to a lot of people” that school libraries were not compulsory. He added that he wanted to see continued emphasis on textbooks and curated materials in schools, which is “something publishers have welcomed”. Blackwell’s digital director Kieron Smith said Blackwell’s would “be keen to see education well supported with students able to afford their reading lists”.
Reading for pleasure should also be supported, said SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon, with Smith agreeing that there needed to be continued support for libraries to “encourage reading more generally”.
John Dolan, chair of the CILIP policy committee, said: “Every child in the UK should have equal access to good school library services.”
There is no VAT on physical books in the UK, but e-books attract a rate of 20%, something many feel needs to change.
PA c.e.o. Richard Mollet said that the new government “should look closely” at VAT, and added that the PA wants the government to urge the European Commission to allow member states to investigate applying lower rates of VAT on e-books. SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon said the SoA wanted to see “the anomalies removed from VAT”, with all books benefiting from a 0% rate.
MP and author Nadine Dorries said there is “now a need for VAT to be reduced on e-books and the only way this will be achieved is by this [position] becoming public knowledge and through persistent lobbying of the Treasury”.