Rally cry for authors' rights from new SNE president

<p>The French and European publishing industries must close ranks to lobby for authors&rsquo; rights, according to Antoine Gallimard, who was elected president of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l&rsquo;Edition, SNE) today (24th June) as expected.</p><p>&quot;We know that intellectual property could be serious undermined by the multiplication of exceptions at national level and even by a general revision of the legal and philosophical base at Community level in the interests of harmonisation,&quot; Gallimard said in his inaugural speech.</p><p>&quot;In Brussels (at the European Commission), authors&rsquo; rights are considered as an obstacle to development, and are reproached with lacking competitiveness,&quot; he added. Gallimard is chief executive of the eponymous publisher, one of the few independent houses left in France.</p><p>His priorities for the SNE include an agreement for digitising out-of-print titles, but despite political pressure &quot;let us not confuse speed with rushing,&quot; and &quot;allow technical and financial reasons to interfere with the aim of including French 20th century heritage in digital libraries and thwarting the worrying ambitions of Google Books&quot;.</p><p>He called for more dialogue with booksellers at a time when &quot;a few major players want to control our pricing policies in order to impose their vertical integration model,&quot; and for VAT on ebooks to be reduced from 19.6% to the 5.5% levied on print.</p><p>Gallimard, who took over as SNE chief from Serge Eyrolles, welcomed the recent industry-wide agreement to achieve interoperability of the various ebook distributors. &quot;We must overcome divisions and form ties between the profession&rsquo;s structures,&quot; he said.</p><p>But interoperability was not enough for former culture minister Jacques Toubon. &quot;Publishers should get together to create a single distribution platform,&quot; to compete with the search engines and other powerful groups, he told <em>The Bookseller.</em></p><p>Gallimard was elected for a two-year term, renewable once.</p><p>In addition, SNE figures released today show that publishers&rsquo; sales dropped by 0.1% year-on-year in 2009. This included a rise of 0.1% for books, and a decline of 3.1% for rights. The number of volumes sold fell by 0.8%, and the number of titles by 1.9%. Further, production slumped by 17.6% in the number of volumes, and slipped by 1.9% in the number of titles. The average print run plunged by 22.1% for new titles, and by 16% per title.</p><p>Figures at retail level are slightly less gloomy. Before tax retail book sales rose last year by 3.5% net, but only 1.8% taking account of a 3.9% drop in returns. Publishers reported sales increases in three sectors. Adult fiction sales rose by 1.1% after inflation, practical books by 5.9% and children and adolescents&rsquo; titles by 13.3%.</p><p><em>Photo credit: John Foley Opale </em></p>