Book sales rise ahead of law blocking discounts
Readers have flocked to online retailers to make the most of the last remaining days of heavy price reductions on publications a week before a policy that limits discounts on books goes into effect.
When the law comes into force next Friday, all booksellers will be banned from offering more than 15 percent off cover prices — regardless of when the publication was released.
The new regulation, which will only allow books to be discounted by up to 10 percent, with an additional reduction of 5 percent permitted under company membership schemes, is aimed at stabilizing prices in the publishing industry and protecting smaller independent bookstores against giant online retailers.
Presently, booksellers can give a maximum reduction of 19 percent — up to 10 percent in cash and 9 percent in membership points — for newly published books or those released less than 18 months ago. There are no restrictions on discounts for older books.
Ahead of the enforcement, some readers have started to hoard books.
G-Market, an e-commerce site operated by eBay Korea, said that sales of its humanities books rose more than 130 percent this month compared to the same period last year. Sales of comic books saw a whopping 170 percent jump compared to a year ago.
The online shopping mall is applying special promotions to some older books, offering up to 90 percent off until next Thursday. The majority of books on sale are available at discounts of 60 percent to 70 percent than the original retail prices.
The auction site has also seen an overall increase in book sales. It said that book sales (as of Nov. 10) increased by 35 percent this month.
By category, sales of self-help books jumped the most (120 percent), followed by humanities books (80 percent) and textbooks (65 percent).
Domestic e-commerce site 11th Street also reported a 54 percent increase in sales over the same period. The retail outlet began discounting stock on a large scale from last month, offering up to 90 percent off some 6,000 books.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism yesterday issued a formal statement stipulating that it will enforce the law next Friday. Booksellers violating the new rules will be subject to a maximum of 3 million won ($2,700) in fines. Despite the government’s seemingly good intentions, the new pricing policy has sparked a backlash, especially from consumers.