All that fuss over agency pricing wouldn’t be any kind of big deal in Germany. Reuters reports that Germany has extended its price-control law to cover e-books. This law gives publishers control over the pricing of their books when sold to German citizens, regardless of where the seller is based. This law, which originated in the 19th century, is intended to protect small bookstores against being priced out of the market and make sure that publishers can afford to publish less popular titles based on the proceeds from more popular ones.
As Reuters notes, e-book sales only accounted for 5% of Germany’s 9.3-billion-euro trade book market last year, but e-books’ popularity is growing in Germany as more people start using e-readers. Perhaps this implementation of fixed pricing is a sign the e-book market is finally about to take off over there—they wouldn’t worry about price protectionism if it weren’t about to be important.
Of course, this adds yet another layer of bureaucracy onto international e-book sales—as if the European VAT requirements weren’t enough already. Such restrictions will, ironically, weigh less heavily on big sellers like Amazon, who have the bureaucracy necessary to track this sort of red tape. It isn’t clear what means of enforcement Germany might have against foreign booksellers apart from asking nicely or threatening to arrest any offenders should they pass within German borders, but it seems likely they’ll get a little more cooperation regarding pricing laws than they would on enforcing tax laws against foreign nationals.