Books are price-fixed - unlike other products. The legal basis is the Book Price Fixing Act (BuchPrG for short), which obliges publishing houses to establish binding shop prices for their new publications. In this way, the customer pays the same price for a book everywhere – whether it is purchased in a small retail bookshop, in a large book store or over the internet.
This exceptional regulation has a cultural-political background. The legislator has recognised that fixed shop prices contribute to the preservation of an intact book trade landscape - and thus benefit the reader. Only pharmaceutical products are promoted in a similar way in Germany.
E-books are also subject to the price fixing. The Book Price Fixing Act makes clear that books within the meaning of this Act are also products that “reproduce or substitute books, music notes or cartographic products, for example electronic books offered for permanent access, and are to be viewed as predominantly typical of a publishing firm or bookseller where the overall circumstances are recognised”.
Excepted from the price fixing are:
- Foreign-language e-books
- E-books to which access is permitted within the framework of academic databases
- Individual chapters or extracts of books
- Texts that lack the impression of a book (i.e. that do not have a cover, preliminaries, contents list, etc.)
- E-books with multimedia applications (mere software, products with video sequences, strongly enriched “enhanced” e-books)
Two basic assumptions form the basis for the calculation: how many copies can be sold of the planned book and at what price it can be sold. On this basis, the pre-calculation is performed.
All costs incurred are then taken into account in the calculation. The value added tax and the discounts that the publishing firm must grant to the intermediate book trade and its partners in the distributing book trade are deducted from the established shop price. Fee costs are possibly incurred for corrections, proofreading or illustrators and finally the costs for production (e.g. paper, print, binding) and the expenses for advertising.