Cancellation of law which increased book prices moves forward

“The book changed the balance in the book market and created a situation in which first-time authors now have to pay publishers to print their first book.”

March 20, 2016 17:25
2 minute read.

Books. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Culture Minister Miri Regev’s plan to cancel the Books and Authors Law came closer to fruition as the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill to that effect Sunday.

Regev backed legislation by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) to revoke the measure regulating the sale of books, and authors’ royalties. That law, which went into effect in February 2014, was intended to lower book prices by breaking up the duopoly held by Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim, and to provide a higher income for writers.

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Kisch and Regev determined the law achieved the opposite of its purpose. By increasing book prices, it reduced sales which in turn cut authors’ royalties. Though the law was supposed to be in force for three years before being reexamined by the Knesset, the two MKs moved to cancel it one year early.

“The law changed the balance in the book market and created a situation in which first-time authors now have to pay publishers to print their first book, as opposed to what was done before,” the bill’s explanatory portion reads.

“The law created an absurd situation in which the legislature’s intervention harmed the competitive market and increased prices for the citizen...

The legislature intervened too much in the free market economy, and the purpose of canceling the law is to bring back the former situation, and allow prices to drop and the spread of new books in the Israeli market to increase.”

Kisch said the government understood the law was a failure and decided to fix the mistake.

“I believe that most parties, in the coalition and opposition, will support canceling the law and making books [more] accessible to all who want them. Lowering the price of books for consumers and selling more copies for the authors – that is what is good for the citizens,” he said.

The Books and Authors Law does not allow a store or publisher to encourage salespeople to promote specific books, and requires stores to give equal prominence to books from different publishers.

The law also requires stores and publishers to reach agreements on discounting books.

Those discounts can be only on books that are more than 18 months old. That includes “buy one, get one free” and similar sales. An exception will be made for the annual Hebrew Book Week every summer.

During those initial 18 months, Israeli authors receive a minimum 8 percent of the price (minus VAT) of the first 6,000 books sold, and 10 percent royalty for all subsequent sales. The law also regulates royalties after 18 months.

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