Germany's fixed-price laws extended to e-books

Germany's fixed-price laws extended to e-books

Germany's fixed-price book laws are to be extended to e-books.

The German cabinet announced that the law, intended to promote diversity within the trade, should be extended to electronic books yesterday (3rd February).

Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said that the new rule will apply to cross-border book sales to buyers in Germany, regardless of where the seller is based, reported Reuters.

The law, drawn up under statute in 2002, asks publishers to determine the price for every title that they sell. It was devised to curtail the power of retail chains to protect small bookshops and promote "bibliodiversity". The rationale, in favour of fixed-price agreements as outlined in a 2014 IPA report, is that publishers will make enough money from bestsellers to then be able to subsidise smaller runs of "riskier", harder-to-sell but culturally valuable publications. 

Last year Amazon was found by the German courts to have breached Germany's fixed-price laws over credit that could be earned by customers to buy any product on Amazon.de, including books. 

The UK's own fixed price Net Book Agreement began in 1900 but was ruled against the public interest and therefore illegal in March 1997 by the UK's Restrictive Practices Court.

Gruetters spoke about the "ethical dimension" of protecting books as both "economic good" and "cultural property" in August 2014, at a time when Amazon was renegotiating its contracts with publishers. "Literature, books, publishing houses ... are a foundation of our cultural life," she said. "They must not be subject purely to market principles. Dealing appropriately with these values also has an ethical dimension. This applies to all players including Amazon."

The German Booksellers' Association revealed that the average RRP of a new release last year was 26.20 euros. According to Reuters, e-books are worth 5% of Germany's 9.3bn euro book market, although this is growing with the take up of e-readers.