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German book industry urges Greece to retain fixed book prices

Changes will 'have no economic benefit', Samaras told

Liberalising the book market drives average prices up, says the German Publishers & Booksellers Association

Germany's leading publishers and booksellers association has warned that plans to abolish fixed book prices in Greece as part of wider reforms to boost competitiveness would "have no economic benefit" and would "lead to a cultural decline".

In a letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the German Publishers & Booksellers Association said that the proposals undermine Greece's own commitments towards culture as outlined in its agency for the European presidency.

It urged the prime minister to re-examine the issue and its possible risks.

"In countries where fixed book price systems have been given up, we have seen average book prices rise. Only the few best-selling titles tend to be dumped into the market in bulk at bottom prices by supermarkets or other major retailers. As a result, choice becomes more limited, fewer titles are available to readers at attractive prices, and the network of book shops declines. This development cannot be easily reversed," said Heinrich Riethmüller, who heads the German association.

He said that Germany has had the "successful practice" of the fixed book price for almost 150 years.

"In Germany, policymakers and society as a whole agree that books are not merely a commodity, but that they have a special cultural value. For this reason, books are not subjected to the forces of the market in the same way as other goods."

"It is this concept of the book as a cultural good which, as the foundation of the fixed book price system, has ensured that Germany is one of the most diverse and stable book markets in the world. Around 4,900 book shops in even the remotest regions of Germany are bringing books, and often cultural events, to readers every day. This broad network of retailers, offering a wide range of i.a. fiction, poetry, children's and young adult books, school books, guides and self-help books, as well as academic and scholarly titles relies on the fixed book price system in order to sustain diversity and choice all over the country."

In Greece, a floor is set for the price of books - whether sold in bookshops or online - to help small domestic businesses. The practice, similar to ones also adopted in France, Italy and Germany, aims to keep foreign publishing multinationals from cutting prices aggressively and driving small Greek publishers and independent booksellers out of business.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global policy watchdog, has recommended that the price controls be scrapped to make books cheaper and boost innovation.

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German Publishers & Booksellers Association letter - 19 KB