Industry Notes: BookExpo’s ‘First Amendment Resistance’; EU Research Looks at VAT on Ebooks

In News by Porter Anderson

Examining publishers’ responsibilities with ‘controversial authors professing what seem to be unpopular opinion’ at BookExpo, while Brussels gets some perspective on VAT.

Image: BookExpo

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Political Views Outside the Acceptable Norm’
As various elements of programming and planning come into focus for BookExpo in New York, May 31 to June 2 (followed by BookCon on June 3 and 4), one with a distinct tinge of political interest is called “The First Amendment Resistance.”

Presented by PEN America, the session is to be moderated on June 1 at 12:30 p.m. by WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone of On the Media. Her book, The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time, is scheduled for a May 16 release from Workman.

Panelists include author Scott Turow; Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors; video game developer and Gamergate figure Zoë Quinn; and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz.

“In an age of fake news, viral provocation, and heightened awareness of difference,” the session’s promotional material reads, “what responsibilities do publishers have when it comes to books by controversial writers professing what seem to be unpopular opinion?

“Is it wrong to provide a platform for someone who has been criticized for political views outside the acceptable norm? Is there an acceptable norm—or is this a conceit of an elitist, left-leaning publishing industry?”

Clearly one of the references here is the Milo Yiannopoulos incident in which Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Books initially announced and then cancelled the alt-right provocateur’s book, Dangerous, amid a months-long storm of controversy.

A Book Is Still a Book

In a new paper from the European Parliament’s Research Service—which provides expert briefings to Europe’s MPs—the issue of VAT rates for ebooks is examined with care and depth. The prompt, of course, is the ongoing single market legislation. A bid for “harmonization” of discrepancies in taxation regulations is a part of the process.

As Publishing Perspectives has reported, there have been considerable incidents of resistance to the different regulatory structures for physical and digital content. Some of the most forceful language was found in the the four-nation ministerial declaration, for example, in which the cultural chiefs of France, Germany, Italy, and Poland termed the situation “unjustifiable discrimination toward ebooks.”

As the Research Service writes, “The question of broadening the possibility to apply reduced rates to all publications, be they print or digital, is addressed in the proposal presented as part of the VAT digital single market package, and adopted by the European Commission on 1 December 2016.”

In essence, the paper explains, the proposal in question, “amends the VAT provisions so as to allow the application of a reduced VAT rate also to e-publications.

“It is limited to publications, the future for VAT rates and a definitive VAT system for crossborder trade both being part of the VAT action plan that is currently being reviewed by Commission services, with a view to the adoption of a further proposal later in 2017.”

You can see the Research Service’s briefing, in PDF, here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.