Israeli Culture Minister to Abolish Law Against Cut-rate Discounts on New Books

'The [Book Law] was intended to benefit some publishers and bookstore chains but in the end the consumer is harmed,' Regev tells Haaretz Culture Conference.

Miri Regev at the Haaretz Culture Conference, March 6, 2016.
Moti Milrod

Just one hour after Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announced that she intended to abolish a law designed to prevent cut-rate discounts on newly published books, she published an initial formulation of a bill to do so.

Speaking at the Haaretz Culture Conference Sunday, Regev said: “The idea of a public [literature] authority is dangerous and reveals an idea to privatize culture. I will not allow this. In the name of this principle I have decided to annul the Book Law.”

At the last Hebrew Book Week in June 2015, Regev announced the appointment of a committee to examine the law. The committee has not yet completed its work and is to submit its recommendations in about a month. However, according to a source close to the committee, its conclusions are opposed to those expressed by Regev at Sunday’s conference.

“The law was intended to benefit some publishers and bookstore chains but in the end the consumer is harmed,” the minister said. “The principle of making culture accessible has dictated my position on this matter.”

As she was speaking, someone in the audience shouted “authors deserve to live.”

Regev said she would also work against what she called “cross ownership in the book market” and would establish a fund to support authors writing their first works.

The law in question is temporary and comes up for renewal in a year. To annul it before that time, Regev must submit a bill to the Knesset, as she said she intended to do.

The core of the Book Law is the requirement that new titles be sold at full price for the first 18 months after publication.

Regev opened her remarks Sunday by saying: “I’ve been told always to start with a quote because that makes a cultural impression, so here you are: As a Chinese Jewish philosopher once said: ‘Cut the bullshit.’”

To boos and calls of “go home” and “hypocrite,” she added, “The words ‘culture demands independence’ insult the newspaper for thinking people,” referring to a veteran Haaretz marketing slogan. “Your culture demands exclusive funding. That is your story, while the other culture that for years was silenced and excluded – it is the one that demands independence. You, of all people, should ostensibly carry its banner in the name of pluralism and acceptance of the other.”