No fixed price for e-books in The Netherlands

No fixed price for e-books in The Netherlands

There will be no fixed price for electronic books in The Netherlands. Secretary Halbe Zijlstra from the Department of Culture wrote this to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Early last year, former Minister Ronald Plasterk announced a study on the impact of the e-book on the book market. According to him, the e-book could develop into a serious alternative to the physical book, and therefore it had to be seen whether a fixed price would be desirable.

For physical books there is legally a fixed price in The Netherlands, which doesn’t include e-books. This law functions as a means to secure a wide availability of book titles. The study shows that the market share of e-books is still very small, less than 1 percent of the total sales.

The study concluded (PDF in Dutch) that the situation of the bookstore deteriorates while the market penetration of e-books continues to rise. And even with a fixed price, the bookstore will not be able to give a sufficient response to the market power of large national and international suppliers. Moreover, a fixed price on e-books has the  disadvantage that it slows down the breakthrough of the e-book and therefore will function as a brake on innovation.

So it is to be expected that the number of bookstores in The Netherlands will further decline in the coming period, also resulting in a reduced amount of available (physical) books. But according to the researchers, a fixed price for the e-book will not reverse this trend.

Therefore, based on the conclusions from this study, Zijlstra has decided to refrain from introducing a fixed price for the e-book. There are legal obstacles and furthermore, the innovation of the book market may be harmed by it.