Under a fixed book price (FBP) system, books can generally be distributed to the final consumer only in consideration for a price as it was fixed by the publisher in cooperation with booksellers. Fixed book price regimes have existed for more than 150 years. Most countries with a significant book industry have, at one time or other, introduced a law or agreement to fix the price at which books are sold to the public.
In many countries, fixed book price systems are established and governed by law (e.g. Germany, France). In other countries, booksellers and publishers can contractually agree on the terms under which books are to be sold in some form of trade agreement.
Supporters of FBP believe that books, as objects of culture, deserve to be treated differently from other tradable commodities. They hold that FBP creates a level playing field for retailers, allowing small booksellers to survive despite the existence of giant stores, and that FBP allows readers to access a greater diversity of books. They also mention that fixed book prices allows for cross-subsidization, where publishing houses use the profits generated by bestsellers to subsidize more ‘risky’ ventures.
Opponents of FBP say that industry functions best when it operates under free market conditions,m and that FBP artificially increases the prices people pay for books. They say retailers should be able to freely determine the prices for their products, based on real demand. They don’t agree that readers with specialist interests are less able to find titles in countries without FBP, or that publishers in countries with FBP take more business risks. FBP opponents believe governments can better support the book industry by policies which support literacy and the development of creative industries.
IPA neither advocates for or against fixed book price.