In Norway, reading can be a costly pastime.
According to Statista, the average price of a book in Norway in 2019 was 190 kroner. Meanwhile, in the UK, British readers pay on average £8.70 (105 kroner), and in the US, the price of a paperback starts from $13.95 (123 kroner).
But those are just the average prices. For example, a new hardback release in Norway can cost upwards of 400 kroner, equivalent to £33 or $45.
So, what is the reason for this disparity?
The main reason for this is that there is a fixed price agreement in place between publishers and booksellers.
The agreement is between the Norwegian Publishers Association (NPA) and the Norwegian Booksellers Association.
What sets Norway apart from countries such as Spain, Germany, and France is that book prices are not restricted by law. Instead, the agreement is voluntary.
All booksellers in Norway are obliged to sell all new books at a fixed price in the year of their publication and up to April 30th the following year. Certain publications can have their fixed price extended by publishers too.
In addition to this, sellers and book clubs cannot give books away for free or let members earn loyalty benefits or points on their sales.
The act protects booksellers because it means publishers offer new releases to all sellers and can’t sign exclusivity deals.
Furthermore, the fixed prices prevent sellers from competing on prices. While this is worse for the consumer, it is better for the shops, publishers and authors.
Another benefit of fixed prices is that it allows publishers to fund more niche titles. It also enables publishers to invest in unknown authors.
Books are cheaper in the UK because it got rid of its own law regulating book prices in the 1990s when the Net Book Agreement (NBA) was declared illegal. However, one negative outcome of this is that since then, 500 independent bookshops have closed in the UK, and now chain stores like WHSmiths and Waterstone’s are the norm.
According to the NPA, a free market, like the UK, doesn’t always result in cheaper books. The NPA has said that while bestsellers are more affordable in the UK and Denmark due to a free market, other literary titles are more expensive.
The prices haven’t seemed to dampen Norwegians love of reading, however, and in 2019 one in four Norwegians read books daily, according to Statistics Norway.
On average, Norwegians read books and literature for roughly 16 minutes a day. However, when you only consider the number of those who read daily, the figure rises to an hour.
When it comes to household expenditure on newspapers, books and stationery, Norway ranks third on the list compared to other EU countries, according to a report by Eurostat. In 2016 households in Norway spent more than 1.5 percent of their total household income on reading material and stationery.