The Director is very sceptical towards the proposal to introduce a Norwegian fixed book price law. She believes it will be both costly and counterproductive.
– Other cultural policies are better suited to strengthening Norwegian literature, she says.
She receives support from Director Jostein Skaar, who believes that granting the book industry a permanent exemption from the Competition Act will not be in the best interests of Norwegian book readers.
– The books will be more expensive than necessary. In addition, research by the Competition Authority finds that a fixed book price law would not increase the variety of books published. We would definitely not recommend this, says Skaar.
Cementing the old structures
Skaar points out that a fixed book price law will weaken competition in the industry, competition which would otherwise benefit readers.
– Increased competition will lead to lower prices and better access through new distribution channels such as grocery stores. Here we lag far behind Sweden, which has a free market for books. Prices of paperbacks are now three to four times higher in Norway than in Sweden, he points out.
– A fixed book price law will cement the old structures that are expensive and inefficient. It will also sideline Norway from technological development, says Skaar.
Meyer believes that lower prices and better access would attract new buyers who previously have not been able to afford books.
– A fixed book price law may benefit the publishing industry today, but in the long term this will affect the industry's ability to compete. Weak investment in, for example, e-books, means that many young readers, who increasingly read from a screen, are lost, says competition director.
– A poor instrument
Meyer believes that other methods are better suited to achieving the political goals of literary diversity and quality.
– There are good cultural policy measures that will have a more neutral effect than a book law, but these supports should not be tied to specific platforms. Consumers must be able to choose freely how they want to read or listen to books in the future. Therefore it makes little sense to exempt only paper books from value added tax, she said.
Skaar believes a fixed book price law is an ineffective tool compared with more direct subsidies.
– Allowing an industry not to compete is the worst instrument. If you want publications that are not economically profitable, direct support is far more effective, he said.
> Summary of the consultation statement (pdf)