The Parti Quebecois government is floating a plan to regulate the price of books in order to save small bookstores.

Under pressure from smaller bookstores that say they find it difficult to compete in an open market, the provincial government is deciding whether it should fix prices and reduce discounts on bestsellers.

One scenario under consideration would see all books in Quebec, whether sold in an independent store, online, in a large chain or as an ebook, all be sold for approximately the same price.

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 that of independent stores. The province may propose a ban on new books being sold for more than a 10 percent discount.

Culture Minister Maka Kotto has launched a parliamentary commission on the matter, which begins hearings on Monday Aug. 19.


Quebec writers fighting for diversity

Independent bookstores say the status quo is no longer an option, pointing out that in 2006 they had 35 percent of market share, and in 2010 had slid to 28 percent.

The union of Quebec writers (UNEQ) supports the idea of regulation, with its 1,400 members saying independent bookstores must be saved.

Without opposing larger stores, UNEQ says smaller bookstores are "guardians of diversity" that offer more than just bestsellers.

UNEQ admits that online shopping and shipping, and the creation of electronic books more than a decade ago have already utterly transformed the industry.

However in an interview with the Canadian Press Sylvie Desrosiers says regulating the price of books should not be seen as a futile rearguard action.

According to her the status quo will lead to "cultural impoverishment" which will only weaken Quebec and its heritage.


With a file from The Canadian Press