UK trade body calls for inquiry into e-books market

Out-Law News | 19 Sep 2014 | 4:09 pm | 1 min. read

An inquiry into the market for electronic books (e-books) in the UK should be launched, the Publishers Association has said.

In a document setting out its recommended range of policies the next UK government should adopt, the trade body said that an inquiry should seek to better facilitate competition in both the e-books market and the online market for print books, which it said should be treated as separate markets.

"The UK government should: initiate an inquiry, which acknowledges that the market definition of e-books is separate to that of books in general, into the online-physical and e-book sectors in the UK," the Publishers Association said in its 'manifesto for publishing, culture and the economy' (12-page / 4.21MB PDF). "This would need to pay close attention to the impact on authors, small publishers and independent retailers of the prevailing market conditions."

"The book retail market in the UK suffers from a chronic and debilitating imbalance for authors, publishers and booksellers. The routes to market for e-books are too narrow and too few, and the online market for print books is similarly restricted creating a potential for adverse effect on competition within both markets, and ultimately restricting consumers’ choice of retail opportunities. Publishers ensure that works are disseminated as widely and fully as possible, and that print and digital versions are available to consumers. We can only continue to achieve this if markets are fair and balanced," it said.

According to a report by the Financial Times, Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet said he wants the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct the inquiry and provide "independent, forensic analysis" of the activities of online retail giant Amazon within the market.

"This is a genuine appeal for information," Mollet said, according to the Financial Times report. "It would be disappointing if this were interpreted as an act of aggression."

The Publishers Association's manifesto also recommended that steps be taken to allow the VAT rate applied to e-book sales to be lowered and called for copyright laws to support investments in publishing.