Growth of e-books in Europe to be delayed 2-5 years due to too few e-readers, resistance by Europe's publishers, recent European legislation, says CEO of Random House, whose e-book sales tripled in U.S. last year

LOS ANGELES , April 5, 2011 () – The European e-book market is expected to lag the U.S. by two to five years due to problems in the sector in Europe, said Random House CEO Markus Dohle, reported The New York Times on April 3.

New York-based book publisher Random House Inc., which is part of German media giant Bertelsmann AG, reported that its U.S. sales of digital books tripled last year, boosting revenue by 6% and accounting for 10% of its U.S. sales.

Outside the U.S., however, the e-book business remains in its infancy, the Times reported.

In Europe, too few e-readers have been sold and too few titles are available in digital format. Booksellers such as FNAC in France and Thalia in Germany have introduced e-readers, but the Amazon Kindle is not available in much of Europe.

While Amazon.com Inc. launched an international version of the Kindle and recently opened a Kindle Store in the U.K., there are almost no local-language books available for European Kindle users, reported the Times.

Some European publishers are resistant to licensing their books for sale on Amazon due to concerns about physical sales being taken over and the U.S. company’s reputation for difficult pricing negotiations.

More widely distributed in Europe is Apple Inc.’s iPad, but not many publishers have licensed their titles for sale on Apple’s digital store, the Times reported.

European legislative and regulatory developments also are problematic, especially with increasing scrutiny from regulators into the so-called agency pricing model, under which publishers set retail prices of e-books and online retailers take a cut.

France’s Senate has approved a measure allowing publishers to set the retail price of e-books to make pricing uniform, not only in France but in several other European countries, preventing booksellers from offering discounts, reported the Times.

Some publishers say this seems like a violation of the European Union’s (EU) e-commerce rules, which are intended to encourage cross-border business.

Last month, the European Commission (EC) raided the offices of some European publishers that were believed to have “violated EU antitrust rules,” said the EC, the Times reported.

Some fear piracy will grow if European books are not made available via valid digital outlets.

The primary source of this article is The New York Times, New York, New York, on April 3, 2011.

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