'Book Law' banning discounts on book sales repealed

Knesset repeal of law prohibiting discounts on newly published books has some on the left up in arms.

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David Rosenberg,

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Israel news photo: Flash 90

Just three years after passing the “Law for the Protection of Literature and Writers”, commonly known as the “Book Law”, the Knesset repealed the legislation, removing restrictions on book sellers in force since 2014.

The law, which was in a trial period and set to expire automatically in February 2017 unless renewed, was repealed by the Knesset on Monday. The law will remain in force until the end of August.

Intended to help struggling authors, the bill was heavily criticized for its prohibition against discounts on new titles. Under the law, prices for new books were fixed for the first 18 months after publication, after which book stores were free to offer discounts.

The law also prohibited publishers or dealers from promoting particular books or displaying publications from certain publishers more prominently within the store.

The Book Law also set a floor for royalties to be paid to Israeli authors.

Pushed by then-Culture Minister Limor Livnat and with the support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the law has caused a significant increase in the prices of new titles – and a steep decline in sales.

While overall book sales fell by 20%, say publishers, sales of newly published books – which fall under the law’s restriction on discounts – declined by as much as 60%.

The slump in book sales and ongoing criticism of the law prompted Livnat’s successor as Culture Minister, Miri Regev, to endorse a bill by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) repealing the law and restoring market forces to book stores.

Some, however, criticized the move, suggesting the law had benefitted small bookstores and publishing houses.

An editorial published in the left-wing daily Haaretz just days before the Knesset vote attacked the repeal, noting that a majority of committee members tasked with assessing the law’s future supported extending it past the initial three-year trial period.

Meretz chief Tamar Zandberg echoed the editorial’s criticisms, slamming Regev for ignoring the committee’s recommendations.

“Minister Regev convened a committee on the subject but it appears their conclusions did not suit her position, so she tried to hide the committee’s conclusions, and only after a serious struggle did we succeed in getting the hidden report. Then we understood why she tried to hide the report: because according to the data apparently book sales surged after the law’s passage. It seems the market has stabilized, and a large chain that was on the edge of bankruptcy has come back to life and small book stores have stabilized.”