Nearly 16 months after the Québec publishing industry began its quest for fixed pricing on new titles, they finally got what they wanted...sort of. The Minister of Culture and Communications, Maka Kotto, announced earlier this week that the Québec government would go ahead with a planned law, after the holidays, that would fix a 10% discount limit on new releases for the first nine months after publication. Kotto said that the measure would help "protect Québec's identity and culture" and that books were not to be "treated like any other commodity."
The measure, if implemented, would be applied to paper and digital books. However, the Québec government did not say how it plans to apply the measure to international online resellers. The ALQ (Quebec's Independent Booksellers' Association) was especially thrilled with the news as they have been fighting off bookstore foreclosures the past few years. In a recent alliance with book publishers, the ALQ spearheaded a movement called Sauvons les livres (Save the books) that put additional pressure on the government to move on the issue by using bolder actions designed to gain public attention and support. Sauvons les livres succeeded in making quite a ruckus at Montreal's annual book gathering, the Salon du Livre, notably putting up a picket line where Kotto was giving an address.
As it stands, the proposed law would be limited to a 36 month trial and reevaluated at the end of that period to measure its impact on independent booksellers. The government would then decide whether to maintain or to rescind the law. Katherine Fafard of the ALQ said that booksellers cried for joy when they heard the news, "It's the oxygen that booksellers needed to go on. And 36 months is exactly what the ALQ was asking for in order to make the transition towards digital books...everybody is in agreement that this law won't solve all of our problems."
As it is a minority government, the 36 month trial period is also seen as a necessary measure to gain the support of the opposition, the Québec Liberal Party. The fate of the future bill now lies in the hands of the opposition which has been opposed to any such price fixing in the past. However, Christine St-Pierre, the former Liberal Minister of Culture, was spotted at the Salon du Livre wearing a Sauvons les livres pin attached to her lapel. Perhaps the wind has finally turned in Québec in favor of price fixing legislation after 30 years of being on the shelf.