Digital reading in Europe

TwLetteratura is one of the 15 good practices enlisted in the manual “Promoting Reading in the Digital Environment”, published by the European Union and written by the workgroup of the experts in digital reading of the EU States.

Promoting Reading in the Digital Environment | La lettura digitale in Europa


The EU manual

The target of the manual “Promoting Reading in the Digital Environment” is “promoting reading as a tool to spread knowledge enhance creativity, support access to culture and cultural diversity and develop awareness of a European identity”.

The manual is published on the website and it could be considered as a guideline for the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, culture policy stakeholders and other EU institutions including the European Parliament. The paper consists in a deep analysis of the European policies for the promotion of reading, as well as a map of the normative context of this topic providing advice for the EU member States, the EU itself and its stakeholders.

Following the spirit of the manual, we contribute to promote and share its content through this post, encouraging those who are interested to read it entirely and to share it. TwLetteratura continues – through the platform betwyll – to promote analogical and digital reading in Italy and in Europe, in cooperation with all the subjects who recognize themselves into the values of reading, culture, and freedom of expression.

Definitions and key terms

The manual identifies reading, and above all deep reading (deep reading), as “the acts of decoding, interpreting and valuing fiction and non-fiction books, processes in which cognition and emotion play a role”.

The text focuses on the notion of access: access to the works, of fiction or non-fiction, excluding texts used to study and the academic texts; access of the citizens to the books, and particularly by people with problems in reading, by people with lower levels of instruction, by people who are learning a second language, such as immigrants, linguistic minorities.

Audience development, in this context, consists in “policy efforts and promotional programmes aiming at broadening and deepening reading: enlarging the group of (regular) readers, and individually and/or collectively intensifying the interaction with textual content of those already (regularly) reading”.

The document focuses also on licensing practice, the agreements established between the holders of copyright (editors) and the subjects who offers intermediation services (mostly booksellers and libraries) about the technical, economical and legal terms which allow the seconds to provide the contents ‘owned’ by the firsts.

Great attention is devoted to the e-lending service, offered by public libraries, through which registered users acquire a temporary access to contents, usually limited to e-books and audio books, on their own electronic devices (the most commons are e-book readers, tablets, and smartphones).

Public guidelines

The manual identifies three policy frameworks for the promotion of reading.

  • 1. In a democratic framework, equality (in the access to the information) and freedom (of information and expression) are considered as the most important values to promote reading.
  • 2. In a cultural framework, , pluralism (of voices) and creativity are considered fundamental to promote reading.
  • 3. In a socio-didactic framework, instead, attention is focused on inclusion and participation, especially of group socially underprivileged, such as people with sight problem or other difficulties which obstruct reading, such as dyslexia.

In this context, the manual describes the case histories of the European digital library Europeana, the program Passend Lezen the program Passend Lezen developed by the Dutch governement for people with problem in reading, and the Bulgarian editor Prosveta, which provides digital books in every didactic discipline.

The promotion of reading

Deep reading is becoming fundamental to allow individuals to participate in their own society, playing a wide range of roles. Only deep reading helps individuals to fully come in contact with reality. Deep reading psychologically helps people to feel a strong connection between themselves as people, and to integrate themselves into their own society. So, deep reading plays an active role in the well-being of individuals and societies.

Digital reading encourages the perception and comprehension of texts through a neurological stimulation which is totally different from the stimulation activated by the reading of a paper book. Digital reading solicits specifical knowledges, necessary not only to read but also to elaborate the texts. Some researches show the digital reading is not as deep as the reading of a text printed on paper. Therefore, the manual underlines the importance to find a specific purpose for digital texts, and to help audience to effectively employ these texts.

In this context the manual examines the case histories of the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY), , of the Bulgatian self publishing platform Hip Hip, and the Italian example of TwLetteratura as a methodology and a social reading platform.

The map of the normative context

Examining the fiscal aspect of the sector, the document highlights that the reform of the VAT – planned for 2016 – will be based on the idea that the Value Added Tax has to be neutral about the technology, restoring an identical rate both for ebooks and paper books.

A key fact to promote digital reading is the portability of contents irrespective of the provider offering services for digital reading. The manual mentions for example the Norwegian case, where the publishing industry has developed a digital database which allows to connect to all the publisher and bookseller: the reader is always free to access to all the books he previously bought, irrespective of the bookstore he employed to purchase them.

Another element to consider is represented by cross-border services, about copyright, licences and portability, which have to be balanced at an European level. The manual emphasizes also the importance to redefine – at European level – the issue of the copyrights following two directions: extending the common licenses, both in public and in private sector; extending the dispensations from copyright, especially for istitutions committed to the promotion of cultural heritage which would like to show online digital reproductions of their own collections.

In this context, the case histories described by the manual are the Biblioteca Digitale Italiana in Slovenia (MLOL), the Estonian e-reading service ELLU, the E-lending Copyright Act in Slovakia, the Bokhylla service provided by the Norwegian National Library, Praga Municipal Library, the “Recommandations pour une diffusion du livre numérique par les bibliothèques publiques” established by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Spanish national ebook platform Ebiblio, the Spanish platform Nubeteca, the Slovenina platform Biblos, and the Finnish platform Ellibs.

The advices of the EU experts

Between all the advices established by the EU experts in different ways for the EU memeber States, the European Union itself, and the stakeholder of this area, the most important to be mentioned are:

  • promoting research about reading focusing on the differences between analogical and digital reading;
  • promoting reading – on paper and digital – to encourage the motivation of readers;
  • promoting interoperability of content formats and ebook readers;
  • encouraging cross-border servicesby financing collaborative projects between different subjects in different European countries;
  • producing more and better statistics about reading, focusing on the difference between analogical and digital reading;
  • continuing to strenghten reading promotion activities, both on paper and on screen;
  • developing collaborative platforms going beyond national borders of the member States of the EU.

Consider well the seed that gave you birth: / you were not made to live as brutes, / but to follow virtue and knowledge. (Dante, Inferno, XXVI, 118-120).

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