Steimatzky Announces Price Cuts for Hebrew Book Week, Publishers Say They Won’t Join

Embattled Israeli bookstore chain asked publishing houses for deep discounts so it can run a sale.

Daniel Tchetchik

The Steimatzky bookstore chain is once again in a war with publishers, after announcing a “buy one book, get two free” sale starting Wednesday for Hebrew Book Week in June. In order to hold the sale, Steimatzky has asked Israeli publishers for a discount of at least 78%, but TheMarker has learned that many publishers, including Modan, Yedioth Books and Am Oved, do not intend to cooperate with the retailer.

Keter Publishing House, which is negotiating to buy the financially troubled chain of bookstores together with the Kravitz stationery and office supplies chain, also told Steimatzky it would not be participating in the sale. Matar and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, whose books are distributed by Keter, have also begged off.

A senior industry figure, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that Keter may be worried about getting stuck with a pile of debt as a result of deep discounts during Hebrew Book Week, after it acquires Steimatzky.

More than 500 titles are part of the big sale, but if the publishers do not cooperate it will only include 250.

Steimatzky’s main rival, Tzomet Sfarim, has its own sales planned, but they are much less aggressive. While the final details have yet to be decided, sources close to the chain expect it to be a “buy one, get one free” deal, similar to sales this chain has run in recent months.

The advantage to the booksellers of Hebrew Book Week, which runs this year from June 11-21, is that they can give discounts of up to 20% for new books. Israel’s new book law, which went into effect in February, prohibits discounts on new books until at least 18 months after publication, with few exceptions — the annual Hebrew Book Week being one.

“We asked for only a 70% discount from publishers, because we understand the difficulties they are facing at this time,” said Tzomet Sfarim CEO Avi Shumer.

One medium-sized publisher who said his company would not cooperate with Steimatzky on the sale said that it would harm sales of its new books for months to come. It would be a disaster for publishers and the entire industry, he said. “There is no reason for people to buy a book at full price after buying it at ‘buy one, get two free’ sale, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The publisher said that Steimatzky CEO Iris Barel could still put his house’s books on sale even without the deep discount she had requested from his company. Steimatzky must be desperate for cash and they are not looking at the long-term implications, he said.

A senior executive at Am Oved, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Steimatzky’s demands would be a money-losing proposition for publishers.

“As every year, Steimatzky offers its customers during Hebrew Book Week an attractive sale on a broad choice of books, and special sales for members of its [loyalty] club, according to the book law. Hebrew Book Week is held first and foremost for the customers and it is unimaginable that during this week they will not allow customers to benefit from sales,” Steimatzky said in a response.