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Not Just the French: Argentina and South Korea Debate Limiting Book Discount

While limits on book discounting in France and Germany receive much more attention, Publishing Perspectives took a recent look, in separate pieces, at how pricing and discounting is shaping the book market in two countries with vastly different reading and book buying cultures–Argentina and Korea.

In Argentina, state-mandated price controls help bricks-and-mortar bookstores thrive, while in Korea, which has no such restrictions, the success of a discount book chain is sparking calls for fixed pricing. In both countries there’s debate over whether the need to preserve literary diversity should trump the free market.

Argentina implemented book price controls in 2002 following a devastating economic crisis. The fixed price law, known as the “Defense of the Bookstore Activity” act, requires books to be sold at the same price at all stores until 18 months after a book is first published. The situation today, reports Publishing Perspectives:

In Argentina book business remains robust, having sold more than 50 million books in 2012, worth an estimated revenue of $535.7 million. According to the Cultural Information System of Argentina (SINCA), the country’s 2,256 bookstores are responsible for 80% of total book sales, with sales equally divided between hundreds of independent bookshops and a few large chains.

Price is not the only key to the success of Argentine bookstores, however. Publishing Perspectives describes a country of passionate booksellers, intelligently curated selections and bookstores serving as cultural centers.

In Korea, where book consumption is at a 10-year low, used book chain Aladin is under fire for discounting policies some are calling “reckless and myopic,” says Publishing Perspectives (which based its piece on a story in The Korea Times). While officials are debating a law forbidding more than a 10% discount on new books, some say the law would be useless because Aladin routinely sells new books as “used.”

Dong-Asia Publishing, recently said that it would no longer sell its books through Aladin’s network. The company’s president, Han Sung-bon, says that despite the risk, it’s the right decision.

“Aladin’s used-book stores are masquerading as second-hand book shops, but they are essentially discount shops aimed at moving new books. These shops have been encouraging twisted, unconventional discount activities that are hurting the health of the entire market.”

Aladin denies the accusation and says newer titles make up only tiny portion of its sales.