Pullman calls for UK to reintroduce minimum price for books
In the UK, author and Society of Authors president Philip Pullman has called for the reintroduction of a minimum price for books, drawing support for consideration of the idea from the Booksellers Association, reports the Bookseller.
Pullman’s call for a minimum price for books to protect independent bookstores comes after indie booksellers criticised the heavy discounting on pre-orders of his anticipated novel La Belle Sauvage, set to be published on 19 October. The UK dissolved the Net Book Agreement (NBA) in 1997, under which all books were sold at the same price, aside from discounting in special circumstances.
The Booksellers Association CEO Tim Godfray praised Pullman for raising the issue in support of independent bookshops, and said the suggestion to bring back fixed book pricing ‘merited discussion’, although he questioned whether the move would be allowed by the UK’s competition authorities, and warned of the danger of fixed pricing leading to consumers buying books from abroad.
‘The NBA collapsed in the year Amazon was formed in Seattle,’ said Godfray. ‘Any new arrangement would have to cope with the internet age, and globalisation of publishing and bookselling. In order to work effectively, price fixing systems need the support of all the leading publishers.’
However, Publishers Association CEO Stephen Lotinga dismissed any possibility of reintroducing a set price for books, suggesting a better way of supporting indie bookshops was to lobby for a reduction in business rates.
He added that publishers are ‘entirely supportive of efforts to ensure there are as many independent booksellers as possible in the UK so that consumers have a real choice about where and how they buy their books’. ‘The best way of achieving that is to make sure there is a level playing field in the book retail market so that no single company is able to overly dominate or behave anti-competitively,’ said Lotinga.
European countries that have fixed prices for books include France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, while Belgium is close to introducing the law.
As previously reported by Books+Publishing, in 2016 the Israeli government repealed legislation, which had been introduced in 2014, that prohibited discounts on new books in the first 18 months of publication. Under the new law, book sales have declined 20% overall and as much as 60% on newly published books.