This last month, EIBF has been fully involved in stakeholder dialogues and consultation meetings with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on two important own-initiative reports for the European bookselling industry: the Future of the European book sector and the implementation of the 2021-2027 Creative Europe Programme. Let’s break them down.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) announced earlier this year its intention to draft an own-initiative report on “The future of the European book sector”. The report, as it is initiated by the Parliament and not by the European Commission, will be non-legislative, meaning that any position taken by the Parliament within the report will not be legally binding or enforceable. However, it will still be approved by the entire European Parliament, therefore reflecting their joint position on the topic and remaining a very helpful initiative which can be used in future lobbying efforts at EU level.
Polish MEP Tomasz Frankowski, from the European People’s Party political group (EPP), was appointed rapporteur responsible for the file. As a leading organisation representing the book sector at European level, EIBF was asked for input to help shape the report.
Following consultation with EIBF membership, EIBF’s Director Julie Belgrado and our Policy Assistant Tora Åsling met Mr Frankowski and his team for an exchange of views. During the meeting, the EIBF team presented the most pressing current and upcoming issues for the European bookselling sector, as well as the main challenges the sector is facing, and the necessary support needed to become more competitive in the years to come. The main points emphasized during the meeting were the following:
- Reading promotion: it is imperative to support reading promotion initiatives, particularly for younger generations. A cultural voucher is an example of a tool introduced in several European countries which has been proven to be a real added value.
- Partnership with libraries and schools: this relationship is vital and relies on local procurement being implemented as much as possible.
- Means to compete: bookshops need the means to be part of the digital market, especially when it comes to the sale of audiobooks. There also should be fair delivery fees for all retailers, no matter their size.
- Ecological transition: Booksellers need to, and want to, be part of the ecological transition. However, they need the means and support to do so. Some changes achievable at retail level, such as green energy transition, require support from different governmental levels.
- Better traceability of books, for ethical and environmental transparency, as well as to allow for more conscious curation.
- Data: there is a current problem with lack of accurate data in the book sector. A European Book Observatory, similar to the European Audiovisual Observatory, would be a game changer to gain better insight into national markets.
- Skills: in the context of the current European Year of Skills 2023-2024, it is important to promote book sector jobs to the younger generation. There are currently very limited trainings in Europe that encompass all necessary aspects to become a bookseller.
- Creative Europe: there should be further opportunities for booksellers under the programme’s ‘culture strand’ and other activities. Furthermore, this report should be put in perspective with the own-initiative report on the implementation of the Creative Europe Programme, explained below.
As for the next steps, the draft report will be published imminently. It is then expected to be discussed and adopted in the CULT Committee around July and voted on by all MEPs during the plenary session of September or October this year.
With regards to the second file, EIBF was invited to speak at the European Parliament to feed into the discussion assessing the "implementation of the Creative Europe programme for 2021-2027". More specifically, this is another CULT report in the European Parliament, led by Italian rapporteur Massimiliano Smeriglio (S&D political group).
EIBF Director, Julie Belgrado, who was accompanied by EIBF Policy Advisor Daniel Martín Brennan highlighted several important points to be made within the scope of the report and the Creative Europe Programme:
Our network project, RISE Bookselling, is a project inspired by booksellers, for booksellers, that was developed out of the many lessons learned during the pandemic. It was made possible thanks to the Creative Europe programme and has been a really added value for the sector.
Because of its value, the Creative Europe's budget should not decrease in the future.
International involvement should be clarified. EIBF has many international members that bring real added value to the network. However, their countries are not members of the Creative Europe Programme. The extent and degree of their involvement should explicitly and clearly defined.
As far as the book sector is concerned, this report should be put in perspective with the one introduced above on the Future of the book sector
The next generation of the programme should consider developing further opportunities under the ‘books and publishing’ strand, particularly for bookselling. Over the past years, bookshops have been hailed as safe spaces, cultural hubs and even considered essential is some countries. They are key components of a knowledge society and are fully aware that they have their part to play in tackling todays challenges. We firmly believe the untapped potential of the Creative Europe programme ‘books and publishing’ strand is an ideal tool to do just that.
On the long-term, the programme considers the integrant part that data plays in today’s economy, and more specifically within the book sector. Mastering their own data allows booksellers to do many things: from better stock management that will ultimately reduce their ecological footprint, to better understanding of readers’ demands.
Besides EIBF, many other cultural and creative industries’ representatives from the cinema, music and performance art sectors were also invited to provide their thoughts and experiences as beneficiaries of the Creative Europe Programme. We look forward to seeing our input included in the final report.
EIBF will continue to take part in stakeholder consultations and meetings wherever possible to represent the interests of the European bookselling sector at European political level.