The Norwegian Publisher’s Association (Den norske Forleggerforening) welcomed Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey’s decision on Monday to approve an agreement between publishers and bookshops for another two years. The agreement lets publishers set the prices of new books in the heavily regulated Norwegian industry, protecting the small local language market and encouraging the publication of more books.
“We are happy that we now have frameworks which enable the continuation of the system we have had in Norway, and which has given good results,” the association’s chairman Tom Harald Jenssen, who also works for publisher and bookstore group Cappelen Damm, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).
The agreement applies to the sale of fiction and academic texts. Central to it is the binding fixed-price scheme for the members of the publishing association and bookstore association. The renewal also continues literature subscription schemes and delivery duties between bookshops and publishers. Norway’s three biggest publishers own the three major book chains, and the agreement exempting books from competition laws means customers pay up to four times the price of books in Sweden or the US.
Widvey said she believed the agreement worked well to safeguard cultural policy considerations, reported DN. The announcement came despite her earlier campaign against book laws rushed through under the former Labour-led government.
Jenssen played down concerns that having the most expensive book prices in the world meant only wealthy Norwegians could afford them. “There are almost none in the world who read more books than Norwegians,” he said. “Books are bought in Norway at very high levels. Books are becoming more affordable – about 10 years ago book sales in Norway were about the same as they are today. But we sell five million more copies now. So the concern is unfounded.”