Google is a bigger threat to publishers than Amazon and could be helped by "the European Commission’s senseless attack on copyright", Hachette Livre c.e.o. Arnaud Nourry told international publishers ahead of the London Book Fair.
Speaking at the International Publishers Congress, Nourry said "vast exceptions to copyright law for libraries, for education, for fair use" could provide an opening for Google to rebrand itself as a library, opening up its repositories of scanned content for free and profiting from advertising income. Nourry questioned why the EC was targeting publishers: "It is as if the Commission had made it a priority to weaken the only European cultural industry that has achieved worldwide leadership. Need I remind you that nine of the 12 largest publishing companies in the world are European?"
Nourry stated: "I would say that Google is the player the most likely to pose a clear and present danger to our industry. By now, the millions of books they have scanned without our consent make up the world’s largest virtual library.
"If the European Commission caves in to the demands of their proxies, what’s to stop them from defining themselves as a library and making all those books available for free on a non-profit basis? They could claim their profit derives from advertising, not from charging browsers an access fee. And who’s to stop them if the European Commission, no less, has given them its blessing?"
Nourry also spoke about the developing digital marketplace that he said publishers had so far only partially—though successfully—navigated. "As recently as five years ago, all manner of self-proclaimed experts predicted the demise of the printed book. Publishers, they said, would at best have to scrap their distribution facilities and become little more than online marketers. At worst, they would disappear altogether, swept away by the wave of self-publishing. It just did not happen. We are the only 'media' industry to have successfully ridden the first digital wave . . ."
He said that e-book sales as a proportion of Hachette business was now falling: "That percentage is actually shrinking, as a result of various factors: saturation of the installed base of e-reading devices, end of the heavy discounting period - the e-books bubble – and lack of high enough perceived added value for consumers beyond the price point."
And he added: "That is not to say we’ve seen the end of the digital revolution, and I would like to strike an optimistic note here. The best is yet to come, because with black and white text brought in digital form to consumers making up almost 100% of our digital business, we have not unleashed our creativity yet!"
Isn’t it a paradox to be in an industry with no growth and to eschew the booming market of digital content consumed on tablets, be them serious games, fremium-based content sites or service providers. With the massive output coming from the talents we nurture - authors, publishers, designers, marketers,-we have most of the skills needed to be players in adjacent industries that are attractive to audiences we no longer reach with our traditional books."