Bookstores: the absolute cornerstone of civilised society. Not just paying their way through providing jobs and paying taxes – but acting as veritable pillars of the community.
These shops are the life blood of their neighbourhoods, offering a service and a meeting point for local residents that online retailers simply can’t provide. And yet huge tech firms are pushing bookstores off the high street – when what communities really need is to keep their high streets thriving.
Booksellers are actively embracing new developments and technologies. They are firmly online, and have invested significantly in ecommerce and social commerce to meet their customers’ demands. But there are challenges: these bookstores are competing with vast online retailers who play by a different set of rules – especially when it comes to tax – unfettered by national regulation.
Which is why we’re looking to engage with the EU’s policymakers and regulators to level the playing field and find solutions that work for everyone. Get in touch with us – we’re always here to talk:
Community spirit – that’s what bookstores are all about. Whether financially or socially. Yes, booksellers create local jobs, pay local taxes, and spend money with local suppliers. Plus, when customers spend locally (whether in stores or online), that cash is also reinvested locally. But it’s not just about money: booksellers also visit schools, host author events, run book clubs, partner up with libraries. Readers love their local shops!
OUR CALL TO ACTION: EIBF members are calling for policies that help bookstores contribute to the local economy by enabling them to compete with international digital businesses both on- and offline.
Fair choice requires fair competition
Like almost every other retailer, bookstores simply can’t compete with the mega-tech firms. These digital giants find ways to pay very low taxes compared to their physical competitors. This helps them to gain market share and lock customers into their ecosystems. And while that’s bad for bookstores, it’s bad for everyone else, too. Bricks-and-mortar stores suffer. There’s a genuine risk of monopolies forming. And readers see their freedom of choice diminish: the diversity of platforms they can buy from is ever dwindling.
But there is a better way: bookstores offer so many other services that online retailers can’t. From community events to book groups, and from educational activities to coffee meet-ups, bookstores are a unique and wonderful resource.
OUR CALL TO ACTION: Regulation to level the playing field to support fair competition.
Buying vs. Borrowing
Booksellers and librarians have a long history of working together to get people reading. And that literacy has undoubtedly contributed to the development of society. But there’s a balance to be struck between borrowing from a public library and buying in a bookstore, so as not to damage the literary ecosystem. This is especially true when it comes to lending e-books in unlimited numbers.
Readers are looking for easy access to a wide range of titles from their local library. While authors, publishers and booksellers still need to make enough money to keep doing what they do. It’s in the mutual interest of both bookstores and libraries that both continue to have a physical presence in their local communities.
OUR CALL TO ACTION: A diverse range of books for readers, which also respect the rights and roles of authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians.
Bookstores are under pressure from all angles – one of which is to sell their books internationally. But what if doing that would put them out of business? And what if that would make it even easier for the big online retailers to monopolise the whole business?
Legislation that would compel booksellers to sell across borders may well harm local businesses by making their web shops too expensive to run. Any law that pushes booksellers away from selling online gives the large tech companies an even bigger advantage. Booksellers are business people – they are innovators who have embraced the digital market, just like other retailers. And local retailers should be free to make their own choices about whether and when to make their products and services available cross-border.
OUR CALL TO ACTION: The freedom for booksellers to make their own investment decisions.
While e-books and audiobooks are still a fairly niche market, they are a convenient alternative to physical books for some readers. But what happens after a customer buys them? In some cases, they can’t then read that book on a different device, e-reader or tablet. And that’s down to the systems they’re sold on.
The only way for booksellers to invest responsibly in the digital book market – in a way that meets the demands of today’s customers – is for access to such books to be opened up across devices. This will not only improve availability for readers; it will also contribute to the healthy development of the e-book and audiobook market.
OUR CALL TO ACTION: Access to e-books and audiobooks across all devices – period.
Freedom of Expression and Copyright
It’s no coincidence that at times of political oppression throughout history, books have been burnt. Freedom of expression is something worth fighting for, now more than ever – every voice should have the potential to be heard. That’s why we firmly believe that books – and the written word in general – must not be censored in any way, shape or form. We also believe that copyright is the backbone of the book industry.
OUR CALL TO ACTION: Policies that support freedom of expression, and effective copyright protection.