Why reading books is good for society

Martin Banks
Old books on a wooden shelf.

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), EU member states have been urged to do more to “promote” books and reading among citizens. They should “encourage reading, support independent bookshops, cut VAT on books, and ensure fair competition with big technology companies.

These are the stances the EPP Group took on Monday in the parliamentary vote on the report on the Future of the European book sector.

“People stopping reading is the fastest way to lose everything that helps us move forward as a society”, said Tomasz Frankowski. He is the MEP and EPP Group Spokesman on the Committee on Culture and Education who drafted the report.

“The EPP Group wants to encourage Member States to recognize the essential role books play in society, from a cultural, social, economic and intellectual point of view, and take measures to promote further reading”, Frankowski continued.

The European book sector is one of the largest cultural and creative industries in the EU, employing more than half a million people and publishing around 600,000 titles annually. 

While mostly composed of SMEs, the sector is also a world champion, with most of the world’s top publishers being European.

In the report adopted this week, the European Parliament calls on EU Member States to provide adequate financial support to the sector, while financing research and innovation dedicated to accessibility and environmental sustainability.

The report calls on the Commission to create a label showcasing independent bookshops in the EU, which promote European books, and to introduce ‘cultural vouchers’ that could facilitate the purchase of books.

The report also insists on the need for fair competition on the market, particularly when facing big technology companies, and calls for interoperability obligations on e-readers, so consumers can read on any device.

Finally, in order to make books more affordable and accessible, the European Parliament calls for books to be zero-rated for VAT in the Member States, irrespective of their format.

“These recommendations will provide vital support to the European book sector, which is needed to meet many new challenges and ensure our society continues to benefit from a diverse selection of European literature”, Frankowski concluded.

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.