Prospects for UK publishing: retail, eBooks and digital opportunities [REPORT]

Westminster Media Forum9 am. Thursday morning. Portland Place, London. Publishing, bookshops, eReaders and academic publishing were all under the spotlight as the Westminster Media Forum Keynote Seminar kicked off.

The morning was jam-packed with ideas, a few thought-provoking questions and analysis from the ever present twitterai…

John Boxall, Director from Pricewaterhousecoopers set the tone for the day with concise data outlining the growth of e-book ownership across various markets. Peter Kaye from the Publishing Training Centre was impressed with an “excellent summary of market data; almost worth the money for this lucid assessment.” To sum up; the UK is catching up with the US. Of those who don’t own a device, a large proportion aim to purchase one within the next 12 months.

Barry Cunningham, Publisher and Managing Director of Chicken House did a great job of convincing us that Children’s publishing is just different. Children hug their books, they like to hold onto the experience – you just can’t replicate this online. On top of this, no child believes that the story is over once the book is closed – and this leads to a wealth of opportunities for digital ‘extras’, which his company are embracing. He suggests that to honor the local bookshop, the government should make it compulsory for schools to buy number of books locally (like in France).

Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of Anobii believes that publishers should be more aggressive in their approach to combat Amazon’s monopoly. First of all they should drop DRM. It’s essentially creating an inferior version of a physical product as it hinders readership across devices. And on the subject of ebooks, why not scrap VAT too? Apple and Amazon pay no VAT on ebooks in the UK anyway and since they own 94% of all sales, it will help even out the market, yet make little difference to overall VAT revenues. The disadvantage that publishers have against Amazon is their lack of relationship with the reader. But how can they harness that relationship without becoming the retailer?

Next week the kind folks at Westminster Media Forum will be rolling out transcripts of the entire spoken content of the event. It will be an impressive store of wise words and hopeful predictions.

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