As Hachette and Amazon continue to battle over e-book pricing, the case is sometimes made that “books are different” than cars or soap. In the US, of course, books are treated no differently than any other good when it comes to sales and marketing. Across Europe, though, many nations have laws that control pricing, restrict e-commerce, or otherwise protect publishers and authors from unchecked free market forces.
Author and publisher Tanja Tuma has fought for such laws in her native Slovenia, and she argues in a recent “open letter” for Publishing Perspectives that the US-based e-book price war should end in compromise, and not unconditional surrender, for the good of all. As an active member of the Slovenian publishing community, she lobbied successfully for the fixed price system earlier this year. In her view, such legislation helps publishing, and particularly bookselling, in a market of 2.5 million Slovene speakers.
“In Europe, or in other small language communities, [there is a need to safeguard the book business] as an expression of culture. If they don’t protect their language and their written culture, and bookshops are an important part of this written culture, what’s going to happen?” Tuma tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. As for the Hachette/Amazon standoff, “I hate the fact that authors have to be in the crossfire. I think this is not right,” she says. “I think companies should agree upon their commercial terms behind closed doors. Although I think both systems should co-exist, I think they need to find a common language.”
Tanja Tuma has worked in publishing and bookselling for more than two decades before she embarked on a career as an author. She is the owner and director of a publishing company Založba Tuma in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In June 2013, her historical novel Winds of Dalmatia in English started a trilogy which will take readers to the Balkans.