The provincial government is making a move to protect independent booksellers by preventing new books from being discounted more than 10 per cent in the first nine months after publication.

Aimed at big box stores and Internet sales, the PQ is planning to the introduce legislation in February to limit discounts on the price of new books, whether paper copies, sold online and shipped to Quebec, or read on a tablet.

Many wholesalers, including Costco, can offer considerable discounts on books after purchasing them in bulk. Wholesalers like Costco are able to discount books considerably thanks to bulk purchases.

Under current industry standards, many chain stores are able to negotiate discounted prices from publishing firms, offering prices on new books at a lower price than independent stores are able to negotiate.

If the bill is passed into law, stores like Costco and Walmart – as well as online booksellers like Amazon - wouldn't be able to offer those deep discounts.

The goal is to support the publishing industry and ensure that small booksellers don't suffer as much.

“Recently, 15 independent bookstores in Quebec closed down. Their market share is constantly going down, their profits shrinking,” said Culture Minister Maka Kotto, who floated the idea this summer, then held parliamentary hearings in August to hear from the public.

Independent bookstores have been lobbying for a cap on discounts as they face enormous pressure from bookselling giants, online stores that ship books continent-wide for cheap, and ebooks.

The news was positive for Hania Brooks of the small business Kidlink Books & Toys.

“We recommend books, we guarantee good reads, we talk to our customers, it's so different from buying in big places and I think it will keep more of us in business longer,” said Brooks.

The union of Quebec writers (UNEQ) supports the idea of regulation, with its 1,400 members saying independent bookstores must be saved as a way to maintain Quebec's culture and allow people to read more than just bestsellers.

Kotto was unable to explain, however, how the government would be able to control the sale of online books.

Mile End bookseller Stephen Welch disagrees with the proposed law, saying controlling the market in this way will do nothing to help the survival of small bookstores, which usually have different clientele from big box stores,

“I think it's preposterous,” said Welch, who owns S.W. Welch Bookseller. “I mean on the face of it, how are they going to prevent anybody, no matter what they say, from going to where they're going in droves anyway, which is onto the online booksellers… I see no problem in larger stores or Costcos discounting the top-end books. They're mainly sort of junky bestsellers anyway so what’s the difference?”

Others argue the proposed law will only penalize the customers.

“It seems to give Quebecers an unfair disadvantage in their purchasing power,” said Montreal Chris Worsley.

The law would come with a three-year term so that its effects could be evaluated, and the government at that time could decide whether it should be renewed.