(This is my own interpretation of a printed defense of the German Book Price Regulation, visible here, by the Market Association of the German Book Trade.)
“This law serves to protect the book as a cultural good. The establishment of a binding price in each sale (of a new book) to the final customer ensures the preservation of broad book diversity. At the same time, the law guaranties a further good for the public interest, in that it advances the existence of a large number of book outlets.”
The book price regulation’s guarantee:
Every single book counts.
Each reader is different. Each has different needs and wishes. Books serve our need for entertainment, for information or for getting advice. And then, sometimes we have to immerse ourselves in a unique area of study — taking joy in discovering an obscure title within the boundless sea of content.
For more than 500 years, since the time of Gutenberg, we have been able to satisfy these needs, in part, because our culture of books has offered us infinite diversity. Each book exists as part of an economic market, as a material good. Collectively, books also define a broad cultural good.
No single title is interchangeable with another.
Each one counts.
This is why each individual book needs protection in the bigger marketplace. In Germany, each new title is sold at the same retail price — the price that is established by its publisher. This is true whether that book is sold in Dusseldorf or Berlin, whether it’s purchased in a small, cozy bookshop or in a big, beautiful department store. Or on the Internet.
The German Book Price Regulation protects all books published in Germany from the excesses of the “dog-eat-dog” marketplace, in a market where one “big player” has automatic and easy advantages over his “mom and pop” competitor down the street. Left unregulated, the marketplace would soon destroy the diversity of books and our literary culture.
In Germany, the retail price of each new book is legally fixed by its publisher, and anyone selling that new book to its final owner must honor that price. There are no “special customers” who get the benefit of paying less than the book manufacturer’s price. The price for every customer is the same, whether or not the seller is big or small, private or public, profit or nonprofit.
There are, of course, different prices for different editions. The prices for the paperback, hardcover, and e-book versions of a book are generally different. Publishers have the option of waiving the regulation that binds booksellers to the fixed retail price after 18 months. Only then can the price be determined by the seller. In this case, the price becomes subject to the open marketplace….
The book market
isn’t all about the seller.
About a million different books are available in Germany — an incredible variety of fiction, children’s books, science books, manuals, young adult literature, advice guides, and textbooks in all fields of study. Every year about 90,000 new publications are produced for German readers.
On the broader market,
books are cheaper in Germany.
It has been proven that books in countries without fixed book prices are, on average, more expensive than in countries that establish a binding price law. Of course, in a US-style price war, a retail giant can sell some best-sellers at something close to “dumping” prices. The result, however, is that prices climb rapidly for the larger number of books.
The bookstore should be protected
as a well-established cultural good.
About 4,900 bookstores insure that all books are offered across the country, even in the most remote places. The trained bookseller on site should be able to offer good advice in all matters relating to books. That person also ensures that every book is available within a short time, even overnight, using a remarkable ordering service linked to a selection of more than 300,000 titles.
The German Book Price Regulation
is a law made for book buyers and readers.
The book price agreement has been an industry-wide practice in Germany for almost 150 years. The agreement was passed into law, as the German Book Price Regulation, in 2002.