The wakeup call
Readmagine 21 was the result of the process launched in the exceptional year of 2020. The purpose of this new edition has been to use the ideas harvested during the online edition, organised in 2020 to build a new framework for reading and books. In those days we feared that the impact on the market could be catastrophic, finally it is clear that «when people were confined at home for months they used reading books as a survival resource and that the proportion of frequent and intense readers has increased and remain higher than before the lockdowns».
The data of the book market in Europe in 2020 were not catastrophic (even quite good in some cases) and that those related to the first half of this year continue in a striking trend of increase.
And this is the reason why we have used the Roman god Janus as a symbol of our meeting this year. Because he was the god of endings and beginnings, of transitions, of doorways , but also of dualities… The next few years could also have two faces and because of that, we think it’s useful to have this wakeup call for the European system of books and reading».
During her presentation in Redmagine 21 Verónica Reyero introduced the concept of “liminality” to explain the scenario that the publishing industry will be facing during the next few years.
Following Reyero’s explanation we are now «living in liminal times». The concept ‘Rites of passage’ by Van Gennep is useful to understand the path from the situation when things were as usual comes the “moment of separation”, the moment when the individual is separated from the community and during this period he is disposed of his attributes and identity and the rules of the community are somehow blurred. This stage is what we call liminality and afterwards is when the person is reintegrated back into the community but in a new scenario.
Wischenbart is a “classic” in Readmagine. He structured his presentation using titles of «iconic children books» because those books tell us about the very basic and fundamental narratives organise our lives and allow us to make sense. Thus, the title of his intervention was: «Where the Wild Things Are. The big trends in book publishing, as seen in late fall 2021» and there were some wild things and a lot of valuable insights.
The Director of the European Federation of Publishers defended the role of national governments on the reading promotion and the positive effects of all sorts of measures to boost the demand for books. She reflected on the kind of policies that would be interesting from an European level.
Bergman_Tahon remembered the famous words by Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union: ‘If I were to do it again from scratch, I would start with culture’. This quote would legitimize the EU, spreading culture and supporting culture is something that is being done. However she thinks that the book industry was the poorest CCI from the EU.
Blässi begun his presentation formulating the question: which forms of reading do we see and which of them would be targeted by reading promotion policies. Reading policies should help people to achieve objectives in life.
The hypothesis of Blässi is that «Reading promotion policies and measures can only work, if the forms of reading they should promote are specified and if there is a clear fit between these form(s) and the long-term objectives aimed for …».
María José Gálvez
Gálvez started with a straightforward statement: «Spain is a country of readers» despite the usual complaints and misleading information about the weak reading habits «Nowadays we have around 70% of people that tell us that they read regularly». During the last years the surveys show a slow but constant increase of the reading habits in Spain.
Next she focused on the 30% of Spaniards that don’t read and the causes for this detachment of books and began to talk about her programs and the policies thal Spanish national government is implementing: «We, the governments still have room for doing things through policies and we can influence on how we promote reading».
Freedom to publish means challenging the boundaries established by the society, they operate and would be a pre-requisite for a healthy publishing industry in Europe. Einarsson said that “The conditions governing and restricting freedom to publish vary around the world. In many European countries, we have taken the freedom to publish for granted. But the challenges are many, and in my opinion, we need to set the freedom to publish on the European agenda for the publishing industry”.
Lippold presented her views on the European policy agenda for the publishing industry; this is an issue that is familiar as she is working as the responsible of several European networks that, precisely, aim to offer new pathways for the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) from strategic and innovative approaches.
Her first statement was that «Collaboration is key to reach the next level in development, sustainability and innovation», something that she came up with by her experience. This is one of the clear programmatic convictions that she is developing in programs such as Creative Shift or the Content Innovation Council.
Attanasio stressed the need to understand the importance and limits of public policy from his statement: «Any public support to the sector should minimise the level of discretion by the Government» and providing some examples of the better performance of supporting demand than «subsidising publishers».
Attanasio supported the idea of a holistic approach for the European policy agenda for the Publishing because only a holistic approach can achieve results, showing good examples such as DSM Directive with explicit market regulation objectives (value gap); Library funds in Italy and Pass culture in France designed also to strengthen physical shops.
As rapporteur of the reading promotion group, Mihael Kovač began his presentation with the idea that the European policy agenda needs new narratives in reading promotion. The foundation for that purpose would be describing what books can do that other media can‘t, in terms of positive impact on persons and society.
Furthermore he said that «we need new definitions of book reading because there is a diversification of the concept». There is reading on paper vs. reading on screen; (Book) reading vs. (book + other) listening; reading linear texts vs. hypertexts or long form reading vs. reading in bursts.
As rapporteur of the new policymaking for the European publishing industry, Enrico Turrin (Deputy Director of the European Federation of Publishers) presented an appealing conceptual framework with four dimensions: Demand / Supply / Funding / Regulation.
The group of experts evaluated this conceptual framework from the perspective of the impact of each of the ideas and the feasibility that the measures would imply. As a result of this assessment the presentation by Turrin was focused on eleven ideas with the highest degree on each of the criteria.
José Manuel Anta
As rapporteur of the new policymaking for the European publishing industry, José Manuel Anta presented eleven ideas selected by the group of experts.
The experts suggested that the coronavirus crisis is the greatest test the world has faced in many decades and for everyone it’s the very first time that a challenge like this is also a trial on the industry capabilities and Intelligence to overcome the problems stronger and fit. It has transformed people’s lives and their behaviours at unprecedented scale, impacted every industry and specially those companies that didn’t have the chance to evolve prior to this crisis. This was the case of many players with legacies that had a different starting point than start-ups or digital platforms, such as the value chain of the publishing. Nevertheless, the pandemic is far from slowing innovation, it’s amplifying it to unprecedented levels.
Kligelhöfer said: «Our goal is to provide publishers with the best service and access to the latest digital technologies so that their content can reach its full potential» and defined Bookwire as a Global Leading Digital PubTech Company.
He reminded the audience how in 2014 he presented Bookwire precisely at the same stage (the GSR Foundantion’s auditorium in Madrid) during the first days of the ebook economy when there were many different companies. On that occasion he explained that the goal of the company was «We get your books into the shops» and described the process of growth of the company from its first moments in 2014 with a staff of 17 employees in Germany and local teams in Spain and Russia until this moment with 140 people, 125.000 audiobooks and 750.000 e-Books on the catalogue.
The CEO of Streetlib explanaied his views about the principles of the company developed several ideas: Globally-inclusive approach: the platform is open to publishers of any size and from any country, with no up-front costs. Strive to build a truly-global distribution network of retailers, libraries and subscription apps.
Adopt a gateway model in order to add value to the local publishing communities.
Celebrate different cultures and lifestyles in the team, also adopting an asynchronous and remote-friendly working environment.
Bourcier started his presentation clarifying that the goal of Izneo is not transform print readers into digital ones, but convert digital entertainment users into readers on their smartphones (because it is the central device for the potential readers of comics). This is a key insight because they started trying to convert from readers and that didn’t work. At the end of his presentation he explains to Celaya that now Izneo is focused on gain new readers from the goungest generation (millennials and Gen Z) such as the video gamers or other kind of consumers.
Piault wanted to share three main points for the discussion, from his perspective as an analyst.
The first one was that Digital gives rise to multiple private initiatives from bloggers, youtubers or instagrammers which contribute to structure a new kind of book readers community and a wide range of tools and networks has emerged during this last 15 years. Secondly, Piault said that digital spreading raises the challenge of discoverability, but physical bookstores may be the only ones to fully take it. The algorithms are important (and mysterious) but have a lot of limits and platforms such as Amazon are aware of that. Otherwise, the bookseller’s experience (direct and online advice, meetings with authors, organizing bookshop’s friends network) gives them legitimacy and credibility. In third place he mentioned that an essential means to take the best from the expansion of digital book lovers communities is to reinvent the bookprofessionals’ community itself; through a «re-imagination» of the book trade media, creating new information channels as Livres Hebdo has done during the last years.
The founder of Cyberlibris focused his brief presentation on the role of libraries as another chance for the publishing business and stressed the problems existing among the publishing business rooted on the mistrust of the use and role of the patrons in libraries and the economic balance of book lending systems.
Brys used several quotes that could exemplify this challenge regarding the role of community of library users from the perspective of publishers. One of them was by the CEO of Overdrive (Steve Potash) that could explain the issue: «We have witnessed pushback from a small segment in the publishing and bookselling community who do not fully appreciate the commercial upside for their commercial interests resulting from library digital lending collections».
The presentation by Paagman had the title of «Bookselling in the pandemic: threats & opportunities». The Paagman bookstores are independent booksellers in four locations with a turnover of 15 millions (30% online sales).
During his presentation he talked about four different issues: the impact of the Covid-19 crisis upon the brick and mortar bookstores in Europe, the idea of Hybrid bookshops by integrating the print books and digital strategies into the B&M shop, the lobby and policymaking in Europe and the present trends in bookshops. The principles that are underneath of the concept of «Hybrid bookstore» were synthesized by the concept: Bookstore as candy store, combining «great places to meet and to find what you are looking for and what you weren’t looking for (serendipity)», but also are cultural local hubs were to meet authors and sharing the joy of literature and contributing to a better society by using inspiring places and digital media.
The presentation by Rivolta referred to the idea of «hybrid bookshop» by using the example of the new big store in Piazza Piamonte in Milano, a milestone in this new concept of brick and mortar shop with digital tools, something that Feltrinelli defines as their «retail innovation».
After his brief explanation about the structure of the Feltrinelli group (born as a publishing house), Alberto Rivolta defined this idea of hybridity as the result of «Omnichannel strategy in order to maximize customer satisfaction» which links brick and mortar (almost1.500 sqm for books) with e-commerce. The retail strategy implies widespread presence all over the national territory with a strong connection with the local community, enhanced by the ecommerce «entertainment» portal.