Authors and Publishers / Preamble

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Actors in the book chain in the digital age: in order to identify ways of developing digital books in France while preserving the book value chain and the editorial diversity of French publishing, the Centre d'analyse stratégique, in partnership with the Centre national du livre, has produced a series of 3 analysis notes accompanied by proposals, each focusing on one of the actors in the book chain: authors and publishers (I), bookshops (II), public libraries (III). The contents are as follows.

I - Authors and Publishers / Preamble

The market for digital books in France is still in its infancy and is set to grow significantly over the next few years. This upheaval, the contours of which are still uncertain, is raising questions among publishers and authors.

Since they do not require printing or purchase at a given point of sale, digital books are freed from the traditional distribution channel, which provides an essential part of publishers' income. Rapidly developing in the United States and Great Britain, which do not have as extensive a network of bookstores as France, digital books are mastered by the major players in new technologies and Internet distribution.

Refusing to accept such a prospect, French publishers now want to take a solid place in the digital book market. But the demands that accompany this process are not minor: it is a question of offering an attractive offer to readers, preserving margins and ensuring financial and legal conditions that are able to dissuade authors from doing without the traditional mediation of their publisher.

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These are all challenges that must be met without delay if French publishing is to preserve its editorial diversity and added value in the digital age.

Proposals :

1) Bringing together publishers and distributors of digital books to create real file interoperability between the different models of tablets and readers.

2) Launch a consultation with publishers with a view to setting a maximum discount rate on the digital edition of a book in relation to its paper edition.

3) Bringing together the players in book publishing and distribution to achieve a grouping of French digital book distribution around a single platform.

4) To train a group of expert teachers and National Education inspectors on digital textbooks in order to guide publishers towards the most promising devices in terms of learning.

(5) Provide for an appendix in the publishing contract clearly detailing all provisions relating to the digital exploitation of the transferred work. In the case of the enriched book, provide for a separate contract.

The stakes:

The expected boom in digital books is bound to revolutionize the organization of the book publishing chain. With the direct transmission of a text from a download platform to a tablet or a reader, printing and distribution of the book are no longer necessary. However, it is this last step in the book chain that is now the major source of remuneration for the publisher. The publisher must find other means than distribution to finance a diversified editorial production that does not follow the logic of profitability alone. Its challenge is then to make a gradual switchover of its editorial production to digital without jeopardizing its economic equilibrium.

Moreover, authors and publishers are used to establishing close relationships in the creative process, with well-known rules of remuneration. While the rise of the digital book does not necessarily imply a transformation of the literary creation process, both the economic model and the legal framework for publishing are bound to evolve. Authors are seeking legislation that protects their rights as much as they do for printed books. He is naturally concerned not to see his remuneration conditions deteriorate.

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Authors and publishers must therefore preserve their respective interests in a market that is changing very rapidly and whose physiognomy is still uncertain. Each of the players in the book chain also has everything to gain by creating a rich and attractive digital offering to avoid the development of piracy, which has been particularly damaging to the record and film industry.

(Source: Thomas Loncle, lawyer at the Paris Bar; Sarah Sauneron, Social Issues Department; Françoise Vielliard, Sustainable Development Department and Julien Winock, Watch and Foresight Department)

 

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