Books and the book market

The rotating presidency of the European Union is a prime opportunity for the incumbent country to take initiatives. Yet, while much of the fanfare focuses on overtly political programs, the cultural projects undertaken are just as vital and can often be as effective. One such project, initiated by the Greek Culture Ministry and the National Book Center (EKEBI), is a conference on the future of European books at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens on April 10 and 11. Socrates Kabouropoulos of EKEBI’s book monitoring unit, in London for the annual book trade fair last week, spoke to Kathimerini English Edition about the purpose and scope of the conference. «This is one of several cultural events conducted during the Greek EU presidency,» said Kabouropoulos. «The idea is to bring in all the key players and produce a text to present to the Council of Ministers that will have the consent of all the publishers, booksellers and writers. We plan to outline 10 to 12 points of book policy on which we are in agreement.» The conference, «What is the Future for European Books? Books and the Book Market in the Enlarged European Union,» places equal emphasis on three subject areas, devoting a number of sessions or workshops to each one. The first session will try to articulate a contemporary definition of a book. As Kabouropoulos explains, new technologies in publishing mean that the established notion of a book made of paper and identifiable by its ISBN number is obsolete. One workshop will discuss whether the European regulations and legislation now governing the book industry should be amended to account for virtual objects – be they text or photographic images – and whether printed and electronic books should receive equal treatment. The second theme is the need for an accurate description of book production and distribution within the European market. That means statistics, says Kabouropoulos: «We have to know how accurate our description of the book market is, if there are comparable statistics, if we are counting books in the same way, and if there are any conclusions we can draw.» The third subject of the conference will be book policies in the enlarged EU. «This is the more political aspect,» said Kabouropoulos. «Article 151.4 of the Maastricht Treaty specifically states that the EU ‘should take culture into consideration’ when undertaking action in other fields, especially in the fields of education, training, employment, the information society and digital technologies, and its policies, but there are no clear guidelines as to how this should be implemented.» The Greek organizers want to see Article 151 acquire greater importance, reflecting the role that culture plays in the EU and paving the way for stronger, more effective cultural policies.» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos will open the conference, and participants will include representatives of publishers and booksellers from Greece and other EU countries, academics and Euro deputies and officials.