As Hebrew Book Week begins in Israel on Wednesday, some publishers are in an even more joyous mood than before, because regulation of book prices expires that same day.
Culture Minister Miri Regev decided last week that she was not taking steps to renew the Books and Authors Law, which regulated the industry and went into effect in 2014.
In the four years since the Books and Authors Law, the average price of a book skyrocketed from NIS 44 to NIS 70, according to the committee advising the Culture Minister on the law, which also said the law reduced competition in the market.
As of Wednesday, book stores will no longer be banned from holding sales of three books for 99 shekels, which were common before the law was passed.
Another section of the law theoretically limited bookstores’ ability to prefer the publishing houses that own them – like Steimatzky, partially owned by Yediot Books, and Tzomet Sfarim, owned by Modan and Kineret Zemora Bitan – in their marketing, shelf placement and discounts. But in reality, it led the major book chains to almost only display books by the larger publishing houses by setting quotas.
The cancelation is due in part to small publishers fighting against it, and a political battle within the Likud.
Several MKs within the Likud opposed the law, especially MK Yoav Kisch, and party activists began an SMS campaign against it. One of the text messages they sent out to Likud members said that the bill benefits Noni Moses, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arch-nemesis, and the owner of Yediot Books and the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
Rotem Sella, owner of the small but influential publishing house Sella Meir that has published popular right-wing authors like Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick and Tuvia Tennenbom, combatted the law since its inception, and is planning a victory lap in the form of a party for the public in Jerusalem Thursday.
“This was a good law for the big, old companies,” Sella said Tuesday. “It erased young authors. You didn’t see them on the shelves anymore. No one bought them.”
Because the quotas for book displays have been canceled, the bookstores can put considerations of what will sell first, which Sella thinks will benefit small publishers like him.
Sella pointed out that in recent years, the discounts in bookstores in Israel were mainly that the second book was 50% off, and that moving from that to three for NIS 99 will lower book prices by about 30%, leading to greater sales.
“This will very dramatically lower prices,” he said. “Now, the sales will be more aggressive and the market won’t be a cartel.”