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eBooks

The digital revolution offers many new possibilities for the book sector. The European eBooks segment is growing rapidly and is demonstrating its potential to all stakeholders, in particular readers and authors, but also publishers, booksellers and ICT companies.

For authors, publishers, booksellers and ICT companies, eBooks are a new way of reaching the public and generating new revenue streams. For readers, there are significant benefits, including the possibility to store, access and buy a large number of books on portable devices and enjoy interactive features of eBooks. They increasingly expect to be able to access their books in whichever country they are, and on whatever device they choose.

The Commission aims at providing regulatory and policy frameworks supporting a wide, diverse and competitive offer of eBooks across Europe that would benefit both the consumers and the industry. It is working, in particular on improving the cross-border distribution of eBooks, assessing the discrepancies between VAT rates applicable to paper and digital books, enhancing the interoperability and the portability of eBooks.

Ongoing discussions

  • The Commission is discussing with stakeholders within a cross-border access working group how to improve the cross-border distribution and portability of eBooks. See the Licences for Europe website.
  • Vice-President Kroes visited the Paris Book Fair where she discussed eBooks-related issues with a number of stakeholders and set out in her speech her vision of eBooks in Europe.
  • The European Commission organised on 8 March 2013 in Brussels a seminar with independent tax experts and industry representatives to discuss VAT on eBooks and online newspapers and magazines. The debate showed and proved clear links between the level of VAT rate and economic activity. Participants concluded that the publishing industry cannot survive without alignment of VAT rates for print and digital at the lowest level.
  • The Commission sought advice from the multi-stakeholder platform for ICT on how standardisation could support the interoperability and the portability of eBooks.

eBooks declaration

Vice-President Kroes held a CEO-level meeting on 26 June 2012 in order to drill down into issues in the eBooks market. An essential objective of the meeting was to have publishers, content platforms and other market players sign a declaration that would send a strong signal indicating willingness to work on common principles for the uptake of the eBooks market in Europe.

No participants objected to this declaration that will remain open for market players involved in eBooks to sign after the meeting. Any authorised representative of such an entity wishing to sign should send an e-mail indicating that their organisation would like to be a signatory of the declaration. Afterwards the names of those organisations will be published.

Signatories of this declaration: 

  • welcome the development of the European ebook segment, the prospects of growth and renewal that it brings
  • support an increasing number of ebooks and devices being made available to consumers across the European Union
  • endorse the principle that there should be no barriers for consumers to acquire ebooks across territorial borders, platforms and devices
  • underline the importance of installing a VAT regime which is neutral as far as ebooks are concerned and does not damage sales of printed books.

See also:
Summary report of the outcome of the public consultation on the review of existing legislation on VAT reduced rates (8 October 2012 – 4 January 2013)

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