A law meant to increase competition between publishers and booksellers, and to ensure authors outside the top few are better compensated, went into effect on Thursday, to mixed reactions.
The bill attempts to break the duopoly in the retail book market, made up of Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim, by not allowing a store or publisher to encourage salespeople to promote specific books, and by requiring stores to give equal prominence to books from different publishers.
The legislation also requires stores and publishers to reach agreements on what kind of discounts can be put on books, and those discounts can be only on books that are over 18 months old. That includes “buy one, get one free” and similar sales, and an exception will be made for Hebrew Book Week every summer.
During those 18 months, Israeli authors will receive at least 8 percent of the price (minus VAT) of the first 6,000 books sold and 10% of the price of book 6,001 and up. The bill also regulates authors’ royalties after 18 months.
As a result, analysts expect the prices of books to rise significantly in order to maintain profits for publishers, booksellers and authors, though the Culture and Sport Ministry predicted it would lower prices by increasing fair competition.
The legislation would have to be renewed by the Knesset after three years. The Knesset Economics Committee will oversee its implementation.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who proposed the bill three years ago, says it “is meant to ensure that consumers, readers receive good, high-quality books and that their authors will receive appropriate compensation.”
“We passed this law because of a market failure,” Horowitz told Army Radio. “The new law protects the prices of new Israeli books. Books don’t get old that quickly and there will still be sales and discounts in stores.”
The lawmaker accused the major bookstore chains of trying to evade the law and using their duopoly to extort publishers.
Rotem Sela, a publisher who organized a protest on Thursday night, told Army Radio that in any country with a law limiting book prices, the amount of books being published went down by a third.
“Fewer books will be published, Fewer books will be bought and fewer books will be read,” he said. “Discounts and sales allow publishers to take risks and publish different, bold literature and unknown authors.
Now there will only be room for the well-known, the ‘tycoons’ of Israeli literature.”