Say goodbye to three-for-one deals at books stores, as the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a draft law Sunday that would make it illegal to sell books for less than their list price for the first 18 months after publication.
The law, which will now go the Knesset where its passage is all but ensured, was drawn up in recent months by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat together with the Justice Ministry, National Economic Council and the Israeli Writers and Publishers Association.
The bill follows the entreaties of leading authors and publishers saying that the competition between the major bookstore chains – Tzomet Sfarim and Steimatzky – undercuts author royalties and threatens the viability of publishing houses.
According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, “the law is designed to protect the author’s income.”
Under the bill, which was approved by the committee during Hebrew Book Week, for the first 18 months after publication bookstores cannot discount the list price of a book, except during Hebrew Book Week and for a few weeks around Rosh Hashana and Passover, when the prices can be dropped by up to 10 percent.
The bill also states that for the first 18 months authors will receive a minimum 8% royalty for the first 6,000 books sold, and royalties of at least 10% for all books sold after that number.
For the next seven years, publishers will be obligated to pay authors at least 16% royalties on profits from their books.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Livnat met prior to the committee’s decision with authors Zeruya Shalev, Ram Oren and Haggai Linik.
During the meeting, Netanyahu said, “As the People of the Book, we are committed to maintaining the income of the authors who create our cultural treasures. The law creates the right balance between the aspiration that books not be a luxury item and that everyone be able to enjoy the experience of reading, and the need to protect authors and their works.”
“Books are not cottage cheese,” Livnat said. “Our duty is to ensure that the present and future Israeli public may enjoy quality Israeli Hebrew literature.
This right will be realized only if authors and poets in Israel receive fair compensation for their works, so that they might continue to create and promote literature in the Hebrew language.”
Not everyone was pleased with the bill, however. Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) said at the cabinet meeting that while he was not opposed to protecting literature or authors, “this did not have to come at the expense of the consumer.” He said he was in favor of a free market “with regulation.”