MUST READ What Happened to Book Sales in Israel After a Year of Price Controls and Minimum Payment Mandates to Authors
By Sharona Schwartz
A new Israeli law controlling the price of books and mandating guaranteed minimum compensation for writers has had the complete opposite effect of what lawmakers had intended, with book sales now in a free fall just one year after the law went into effect.
It’s called “The Law for Protecting Literature and Books,” but the impact on the industry has been so devastating that the head of a prominent book publisher has taken to calling the new mandate, “The Law for Hurting Literature and Books.”
The way things used to work in Israel was that the two main booksellers – Steimetzky and Tzomet Sfarim – would offer massive discounts on books, often selling new titles at two for the price of one or even four books for 100 Israeli shekels, or about $25.
But under the new law’s dictates, any new book that’s been on the shelf 18 months or less may not be discounted. During the same time period, Israeli authors are guaranteed to earn a minimum of 8 percent of the price of the first 6,000 books sold and 10 percent of all subsequent books sold, the Jerusalem Post explained last year.
Publishers told Haaretz that the law “has upset the entire literary food chain” with sales of new book titles down between 40 and 60 percent and down 20 percent for books overall.
Israel’s Channel 2 television on Sunday visited booksellers who said that after their customers see the newly elevated prices of children’s books, they head straight for the toy department. Booksellers say they’ve experienced a 25 percent drop in children’s book sales in just one year, according to Channel 2.