Author Archives: ari

EU confirms that libraries can lend ebooks provided authors are fairly compensated

2016-11-13

Ebooks have been, and are being, lended by public libraries in many EU countries, but on November 10th, 2016 the EU Court of Justice decided that libraries really have the right to do so. The court regarded that the principles for lending paper books and ebooks are the same. The most important point for authors and publishers of digital books is that the court specifically stated that the authors must be fairly remunerated for library loans.
bookshelf, dictionaries
The case was brought to the EU Court of Justice by Dutch authors’ organization Stichting Leenrecht which collects remuneration for authors. The EU court, however, saw the big picture and stated in its press release:

“That conclusion is, moreover, borne out by the objective pursued by the directive, namely that copyright must adapt to new economic developments.”

The EU Court attitude is warmly welcomed, and hopefully spreads to EU nations as well. Authors’ rights to benefit from their work is the number one priority for everyone in the business, but at the same time, the way the rights are used must be developed as the digital era progresses.

The EU Court states:

“[e-book lending] has essentially similar characteristics to the lending of printed works. That is the case as regards the lending of a digital copy of a book under the ‘one copy, one user’ model.” And specifically reminds “… provided that authors obtain, at least, fair remuneration.”

Currently, there are many practices in EU countries how libraries deal with digital books. For instance, public libraries in Finland don’t compensate ebook rights holders anything when citizens lend their works. That’s why publishers and authors are very reluctant to make ebooks available via libraries – one of likely reasons that has prevented ebook market to emerge in the country. In Sweden, publishers can set the price per loan that libraries have to pay for each loan. If a publisher sets the loan price too high, libraries won’t make the book available, but when the price is right, everyone is happy (including citizens who couldn’t get enough of football star Zlatan’s biography).

Surprisingly, The Federation of European Publishers opposes EU Court’s ebook lending decision. The organization represents national publishers’ associations, which tends to mean big publishers. The organization’s concern seems to be (according to the press release) piracy: ebook lenders would loan ebooks only to crack the DRM and keep the books forever, and not return them to the library.

Two things for the Federation of European Publishers to consider: the same piracy risk is present in all ebooks purchased from bookstores, and it would be a good idea for the organization to get familiar with the ebook lending system in Sweden.

How to avoid crowds at Lello (aka Harry Potter) bookstore in Porto, Portugal

2016-11-05

As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going on at the moment. Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto are world class destinations that attract an increasing number of visitors. One of the lucky Portuguese destinations that gets more visitors than it perhaps ever wished for is a beautiful bookstore in the city of Porto in North Portugal. The author of Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, drew inspiration from it and perhaps also used the bookstore setting as a platform for the Harry Potter world.
Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal. Photo: Michal HuniewiczPhoto by Michal Huniewicz.

So, it seems that every tourist who arrives in Porto wants to visit the Lello shop in the city center.
Porto, Portugal, Lello bookstore
The result is that the shop is crowded. Once people discovered the store and the word spread, it has been a travel destination. The bookstore eventually became so crowded that the owners had to think of something to allow people to actually shop books and to look around, too.

They invented a scheme that works like this: outside the bookstore is a kiosk (the red kiosk in the photos) where you have to buy an entrance ticket (yes, you pay to enter a bookshop). The kiosk controls the flow of people to the store. Once you buy something, the ticket price is deducted from the total. Fair, and simple system that allows some breathing room for bookstore visitors.

lello bookstore, porto.

Visitors to the Lello bookstore have to get a ticket from the red kiosk first.

As you can see in the photos, the Harry Potter fans’ and curious visitors’ queue can be quite long to the ticket kiosk – before you even get to the bookstore. The photos were taken in September. We can only imagine how long the queue was in August and July.

How to avoid spending a long time in the queue? Arrive early in the morning. Early is a relative term, but if you hit the scene before 11 o’clock, you should be fine.

An important tip for Porto explorers: Beware of the traffic in Porto and everywhere else in Portugal. The way locals drive is very fast, dangerous and unpredictable, and it is against their religion to indicate which way they are going.

Here is where you can find the Lello bookstore:
porto, lello bookstore, map

Globally, ebook markets to continue steady growth during the next few years

2016-10-22

In North America, where Amazon kicked off the modern ebook business in 2007, some book industry experts today are lamenting the recent decline of ebook revenues. Ebook markets outside the US, however, have a different situation and possibly also outlook for the future. PWC, a consultancy, forecasts that globally ebook sales continue to grow steadily, whereas print book revenues continue their gradual fall. PWC’s forecast is projected until 2020.

pwc, book publishing forecast 2020Annual growth rate for ebooks 10.4% and for print books -0.4% until 2020 according to PWC.
In regions like Europe, Asia and the Pacific, the adoption of ebooks have been a lot slower than in the US. For instance, in many European countries the market share of ebooks from the total book market is at 1 – 5% level. There is room for growth. Plenty of it. Sales channels are still being established (for instance, grocery store Aldi in Germany and subscription service Storytel in Scandinavia), tax laws are being amended (in order to treat ebooks equally with print books), self-publishing services are being set up, and people are realizing that large screen smartphones are reading devices.

Do you remember when the Internet bubble burst in 2001? It had been a wild run since the IPO of Netscape in 1995. For some pundits, 2001 was the end of the Internet business and tech business. Well, what happened? Today, they are shaping our world in all fields of life: transportation, entertainment, shopping, working, relationships, you name it.

The fact is that the world is taking its first baby steps in the new era of digital media that today also features electronic books. Today’s ebooks are more or less direct conversions of print books into electronic format – sometimes not even conversions if an ebook is delivered as an PDF file. Multimedia and augmented reality are some of the technologies that may get smartphone-generations to read commercial ebooks just like they read fan fiction, messages or watch online videos. Books will develop with technology, but the concept of book is so strong that it will remain.

So, yes, PWC’s cautious forecast for global annual ebook revenue growth of 10.4% is way more likely to happen than the decline of revenues in the US would turn into a long term trend.

pwc book publishing market forecast

Finally, European Union agrees that ebooks are books

2016-09-19

It is the content that matters. A book is a book regardless of the method you use to read it. A book printed on paper conveys the same ideas, information, excitement and messages as an electronic book enjoyed on a tablet, ereader or smartphone. Now, the European Union agrees with this concept. It means that the VAT for ebooks can be the same as it is for printed books.
kindle page flip video
So far, the VAT for ebooks in EU countries has been higher than for printed books. In some countries paper books don’t have VAT at all, but ebooks may have 15-24% VAT. It is a significant price difference.

France rebelled against the different VAT levels for books and ebooks already in 2013, but EU told France and later Luxembourg that they have to follow the rules. Ebooks were considered electronically supplied services rather than media products because ebooks are being delivered electronically, and there is no physical product. The great project to standardize VAT levels in EU had already started, and media products were part of it. France, Luxembourg and other countries were told to wait for the big VAT reform.

Now, Financial Times reports that Pierre Moscovici, the EU tax commissioner, agreed that ebooks are books. The commission will propose legislation to address the problem during October 2016. National governments will have to approve the initiative after that, but it is difficult to see why any government would want to stop it.

The next interesting story will be the level of VAT for ebooks. Will it be as low as it is for printed books, or will the VAT for paper books be raised to the same higher level than it is for ebooks?

Travel photo gallery 2014: Sweden, Scandinavian countries

2015-01-29

In 2014, my travels took me to Scandinavian countries, primarily Sweden. Southern and western regions of Sweden along with Stockholm were the main destinations.

After exploring and staying on the West Coast of Sweden, I had more than enough material and contacts for interviews to write a travel guidebook Gothenburg and Sweden’s West Coast about this region that is the most popular vacation destination for Swedes after Stockholm.

The nice thing in this part of the Scandinavia was that it was possible to enjoy lively city life in Gothenburg and enjoy the great outdoors in the pristine archipelago of the West Coast.

Book trade professionals in North Europe are familiar with Gothenburg because of the annual Book Fair that is the largest in northern Europe.

Here is the 2014 travel photo gallery where you can find photos of other photographers taken from other places as well:

Bohus fortress near Gothenburg, Sweden.