Welcome to this week’s PA PA; in a week in which the scale of the political challenge facing each of the main parties in next year’s General Election has been made somewhat clearer by the local and EU election results. The latest PA blog “No politics please, we’re publishers” explains why the sector should aim to be indifferent to the electoral outcome.
The consultancy Deloittes, on behalf of Amazon, has produced a study into e-reading and the impact of VAT on the prices of ebooks. It finds that an increase in price of 15% (as a result of a shift in the VAT treatment) could lead to a 16% drop in sales; whereas dropping the price by the same amount would lead to a rise in sales of 20%. This would bring a range of economic and social benefits to the EU, the paper argues. In essence the paper is a core element in Amazon’s on-going lobbying campaign to see VAT reduced on ebooks across the EU. (The copyright status of the report is not clear so we have refrained from potentially infringing by making it available to all).
Following from the Sieghart Review into E-Lending the Government is pressing ahead with proposals to allow Public Lending Right to be paid with respect of audiobooks and ebooks – but only where these are borrowed on the library premises and not remotely. It published its latest views in response to the February 2014 consultation last week and this can be read here. The next steps are for regulations to be laid before the House (on a negative procedure so there will be no requirement for a formal vote) and PLR will be payable on these works from February 2015. Existing lending contracts will be allowed to run their course, unless the parties agree otherwise; and producers and narrators will also be able to share in the PLR. It notes – as the Government often does – that current EU law does not permit PLR to be extended to remote elending.
Not distracted by the EP elections, the European Council (i.e. Ministers of member states) held a seminar on “Education, Youth, Culture and Sport”. Although this is an area in which the EU has limited political power, the press release following the two day conversation did reach conclusions on “quality assurance supporting education and training, specifically covering the quality of cross-border education.” Literacy per se was not under discussion, however the Council and Commission think that media literacy is very important and the meeting discussed a proposal to ensure that children from the age of five were able to watch and understand films. The meeting also discussed the digitisation of cultural heritage, with some nations’ Ministers (they are not specified in the report) noting that this required a change in the approach on copyright.
Libraries and Copyright and Open Access
Speaking of which, our close friends at the International Federation of Libraries Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and various other libraries have written to the European Commission calling on the President and others to “fulfil the promise of innovation” through reforming copyright laws. The open letter can be found here . The letter criticises the EU for the stance it has taken in this month’s discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) meeting on copyright. Despite the recent Treaty on the Visually Impaired, WIPO is not fundamentally a treaty-making organisation. The EU and the US in particular are keen for it to remain this way, but other lobbies – IFLA included clearly – think that it should be in the business of creating legislation. IFLA objects to the fundamental property rights which the copyright law grants (it believes there is an imbalance between the mandatory rights and optional exceptions) and takes aim at the flexible and developing licensing models being introduced by publishers. There is also some confusion – deliberate or otherwise – over the role of Open Access in the copyright debate. It all makes for interesting reading as the WIPO “SCCR” talks pick-up again next month.
This is not attended to be marketing material for Deloittes but it just so happens that this week the consultancy published a very interesting paper on media ownership: “Media Consumer 2014, the Digital Divide”. Although predominantly about film, tv, gaming and social media there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to books: the study finds that a narrow majority of Uk respondent acquire more digital books than physical ones (...which may raise some doubts about the sampling...) and that the average UK household spends some £900 on all media every year.
Who we’ve met and Forthcoming Meetings
This week Parliament was in recess, but we met with the Danish Publishers and Booksellers Association; the Unite union political and publishing teams, SHERPA, the Mexican Embassy; next week The PA will be flying the flag for the UK at Book Expo in New York.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, author Michael Rosen has continued his campaign to promote reading for pleasure in schools, as reported by The Telegraph here.