[Posted for Dr. Skans Kersti Nilsson]
This conference took place in the brand new university library building on top of the hills in the outskirts of Vilnius. Unaware of this, I booked a hotel close to the old university block in the town centre, but had to face realities. Anyway, The International Book Conference has been arranged by the Faculty of Communication and The Institute of Book Science and Documentation at Vilnius University for 23 years. This year it focused on “the issues of publishing in a small market, the actors of the publishing sector and their changing functions and relations, as well as the relationship between advertising and contemporary publishing, the first e-publishing experiences and prospects, traditional and e-book culture, and reading habits in the e-book era”. Publishing is important in a small language culture like Lithuania, which today has several hundred publishing houses and publishers. Swedish publishers use Lithuanian printing houses as they have almost disappeared from the Swedish book market.
Invited keynote speakers were Professor Miha Kovač from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Professor Adriaan van deer Weel from Leiden University, Netherlands, and Professor Clare Squires from the University of Stirling, Scotland. Nineteen speakers from Belarus, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Finland and Sweden participated.
Professor Miha Kovač pointed at international differences in VAT on e-books as important to its implementation in Europe. In Hungary it is 27%, in Croatia, Denmark and Sweden it is 25% whereas in Luxembourg it is 3%. In Croatia, there is a free e-books’ project going on under sponsorship by the Ministry of Culture. During 2013 Croatia has five on-line booksellers for e-books, but Amazon.com is of course a much bigger threat, especially as Amazon does not pay any taxes at all. What might happen to the small languages when the English language take over all areas? The marketing share of the e-books in USA is 25-30%, in UK 15%, in Germany 9%, in France 3 %, in Italy 2%, and in the small countries less than 1%. The EU adopts a dual economy, which is also a problem. The growth of e-book publishing is slow in EU-countries because of higher VAT, higher licensing costs and smaller markets. There will be a global English book market in the future. According to translation patterns, Slovakia is far higher in rate of translations than Germany, Italy and France. Continental and Anglo-Saxon book industries will differ both in formats, distribution and sales channels, and in pricing and marketing politics. This will cause changes in reading patterns.
Professor Adriaan van der Weel talked about the necessity of critical awareness of the effects of the shift from publishing and reading printed texts to publishing and reading digital texts. His latest book, Changing our textual minds: towards a digital order of knowledge (2011), is an example of this. As print-mentality is hierarchical, internal, supporting memory and deep reading, online-mentality is less fixed, with less intention to follow a narrative. Online-reading supports temporary experiences through sampling and zapping. Digital areas replace physical and mental ownership, like libraries, a spotify-concept might as well replace knowledge and cognition. Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield’s book Tomorrow’s people: how 21st century technology is changing the way we think and feel (2003) bears on evidence to this change of mentality. Professor van der Weel emphasized the differences between printed publishing and reading to digital publishing and reading to be of such a great importance that it is not simply a question of replacement, but of loss.
Summing-up the conference made clear the similarities between the European countries facing a new market for digitized books, from publishing as well as in distribution and reading.