Over 200 publishers and publishing imprints in Italy’s Publishers Association (the Associazione Italiana Editori or AIE) have signed an open letter to the country’s government, asking it to delay the implementation of controversial new rules on book discounting, and citing the coronavirus outbreak among the reasons.
Earlier this month, the Italian Senate approved a new law on reading, which among other measures lowered the threshold at which booksellers, including online retailers, can discount titles, from 15% to just 5%. The discounting that publishers themselves are allowed to offer, in an arrangement that is permitted one month in every year, has also been cut, from 25% to 20%.
According to Italian online newspaper Il Post, the discounting law has divided the publishing world between small and large operators, with the large publishers of the AIE against the limitation, while small publishers and booksellers who can’t compete with the high discounting are in favour. Amazon has not commented, Il Post said.
In the open letter to government published by the AIE, publishers say that while they have been critical of the discounting policy, they are now ready to implement the new law, since they share its aim of broadening readership and growing the culture of reading. However publishing companies need time to adapt and prepare for the new rules, to avoid damage to their businesses, as well as to retailers, authors and readers, they say.
This is particularly important given the advent of the coronavirus outbreak, which it says is forcing the book world to face “unprecedented critical issues.” Therefore the law should not be implemented until September at the earliest, the letter states.
An outbreak of coronavirus in Italy this week led to the postponement of the Bologna Children's Book Fair.
Among other – less controversial — measures in the new law passed this month is the allocation of €4.3m to a National Action Plan to promote reading, which will designate a city as “Italian book capital” each year, as well as the allocation of €3.25m for the fund financing tax breaks for independent bookshops. There are also programmes to encourage reading in schools, and a “culture card” worth €100 to help disadvantaged families buy books.