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Books and Publishing

Girl browsing books in a bookshop

The publishing sector is one of the largest culture industries in Europe, with a total market value estimated at €36-38 billion. The entire book value chain (including authors, booksellers, printers, designers, etc.) is estimated to employ more than half a million people according to the 2018 report of the European Publishers Federation. With more than 500,000 titles published annually, the European book sector is incredibly rich and diverse.

However, many of European books are not accessible to Europeans. Primary reasons are the linguistic and geographical fragmentation of the markets and the domination of books written in English that represent 80-90 % of available translations in Europe. The literature of many European countries are too rarely translated in other languages. As a result, many European readers do not have access to the richness and diversity of European literature.

The book sector has also suffered from a slow adaptation to the digital shift and a steady decline in literary reading.

The COVID-19 crisis has further amplified these trends and the necessity to support the recovery and the competitiveness of the book sector.

The European Union supports the book sector through the following mix of tools and policies from funding, dialogue and regulations.

Support for the book sector in the Creative Europe programme

The main objectives of the Creative Europe programme is to reinforce the circulation of literature in Europe, diversify the audience for European books and strengthen the competiveness of the publishing sector.

Literary translation support

The Creative Europe programme provides co-financing to publishers to encourage the translation and publication of books in particular from less represented languages. The financial support cover 50% of costs of translation but also distribution and promotion to a larger audience. Most of the promotional activities (authors’ visits, festivals, readings) are organised in cooperation with booksellers, libraries or literature festivals reinforcing the local/national book ecosystem.

Since the start of the programme, more than 320 projects by European publishers have been selected for the translation and promotion of more than 2700 books from 41 different languages across Europe. The variety of languages and genres fully reflects the languages and cultural diversity of literature in Europe.

Cooperation and platform for promotion of works

In addition to the support of literary translations, the programme co-finances a variety of cooperation and platform projects. The following past or ongoing projects are illustrations of how creative Europe supports the book sector all over the book value chain from the author to the reader

  • Talent development: CELA (Connecting Emerging Literary Artists) trains and connects 30 emerging authors, 80 emerging translators and 6 emerging literary professionals offering a bigger opportunity to small languages and to drive change.
  • Online promotion and distribution: European comics is a pan-European digital venture run by 13 European comics publishers from 8 European countries. It contributes to the promotion and development of European comics and graphic novels throught several actions
    • creating a collective digital catalogue
    • organising author tours and events across Europe and North America
    • setting up a website meant for comics readers and professionals 
  • Poetry promotion: The Versopolis platform created in 2017 has grown over the years to include 23 poetry and literary festivals in Europe. Together they have promoted more than 200 poets from 32 different European languages and over 1 800 of their poems have been published on the website.
  • Business to business networking: The project ALDUS (European Book Fairs’ network) is an international network of the largest book fairs in the world (Frankfurt and Bologna), several national fairs and publishing associations, with the ultimate goal of further professionalising the fast-changing European landscape of publishing.
  • Audience engagement - SILO (Socially Inclusive Literature Operations) aims to make foreign European literature accessible for everyone. Organisations from seven countries work directly with citizens, engaging refugees, hospital patients, young adults, prisoners, secondary school students and the elderly to bring literature to the streets on the peripheries of cities, inside hospitals and wherever else a good story is needed.
  • Reading and education: The project READ ON (reading for Enjoyment, Achievement and Development of Young People) aims to increase young people’s interest in literature and attract their attention by nurturing their joy of reading while using their digital skills. The project - made up of a partnership of six countries organises events in schools, teenager festivals, bars and informal venues, and offers web solutions to ensure young people are familiar with books. The fast changing digital society is not an enemy but a way to develop further the youngsters’ reading skills which they will need for future success in their academic, social and working lives.

What is expected in the next Creative Europe programme (2021-27)

The European Commission has decided to reinforce its support to the book sector in the frame of the future Creative Europe programme with increased funding for the translation and promotion of books and a sector specific support to increase training, professionalization and networking within the book sector.  

The European Union Prize for Literature

The European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) puts a spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature in the field of fiction. In this way it promotes the circulation of literature within Europe and to encourages greater interest in non-national literary works.

The prize is organised by a consortium of the European Writers’ Council, the Federation of European Publishers and the European and International Booksellers Federation, with the support of Creative Europe. Thanks to this prize and since its first edition in 2008, 135 emerging authors from 41 European countries have reached new markets as their work have been translated into several languages.

Dialogue and cooperation with member states and stakeholders

The Commission is in constant dialogue with the sector and has recently set up an Open Method of Coordination group on multilingualism and translation that aims to provide recommendations on how to improve the circulation of works in Europe and strengthen the translation sector.

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