The chief executive of the Publishers Association (PA), Stephen Lotinga, has called on UK authorities to confront Amazon's book market dominance - an issue he said can no longer be left to the European Commission to tackle in the wake of Brexit.
Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum on 'Book Publishing and the Wider Creative Market' in London this morning (24th January), Lotinga said it was "one of the fundamental responsibilities" of a government and regulator in a capitalist system to ensure that market dominant positons are not abused.
"In the case of e-books we now have a situation in the UK where one company reportedly has up to 90% of market share. I refer of course to Amazon," said Lotinga. "When a business reaches such scale, if left unchecked, it is almost inevitable that they will use their dominance in such a way to ensure the status quo does not change and thereby prevent real competition in the market place.
"We know from past experience that the UK has backed away in the face of tackling these issues and instead it has been left to the EU to respond. But with Brexit only a few years away that recourse may no longer be available.”
He added: “In the world of books there remain some fundamental questions about how we ensure a healthy market, with bookstores on our high streets, and choice for the consumer. The UK authorities cannot continue to shy away from tackling the issues at hand."
Lotinga also raised the PA's priorities for the industry following Brexit, as well as diversity in publishing.
The PA laid out its three core priorities following Brexit: tariff free entry to the EU, as the industry's largest single export market, ensuring any restrictions on immigration "continue to allow the industry to succeed" and finally a strong Intellectual Property system.
IP, Lotinga said, was "absolutely fundamental", emphasising that copyright is "the cornerstone of our industry".
"Authors must be recognised and rewarded for their work,” he said. “Publishers who invest and support them also need to be incentivised and given the means to find new talent.”
Of diversity, which he named a "big priority" for the UK book publishing, Lotinga promised targets for houses to aspire to would be forthcoming within the next few months "so that we’re not having the same conversations in 10 years' time".
"We must do much, much more, to ensure that our workforce properly reflects society, to open ourselves up to writers of all backgrounds and to reach out to new audiences,” Lotinga said. “That comes from a growing acceptance that if the people who are making decisions aren’t diverse enough, then neither will the books they publish be."
"There are some real challenges the publishing industry faces," Lotinga concluded. "We must do much more to talk loudly about our achievements and to remind government of the value of our long-term commitment to the UK.
"I for one remain incredibly optimistic about the industry’s future.”
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