5.3.4 Literature and libraries
After a parliamentary procedure of four years, in July 2011 Italy joined the many European countries which have adopted laws on fixed book pricing. Law 128/2011, explicitly inspired by the French 1981 law, establishes at 15% – with some well-defined exceptions – the maximum level of discount allowed for the price of books. The ratio of the law is, as usual, the support of pluralism and diversity: for the authors, for the publishers, and for book commerce. It mainly benefits the small publishing houses and book sellers and distributors, which cannot afford a competition based on huge discounts.
The subsequent step of extending the fixed book price also to the commerce of digital books, though – as it already happens in the U.S. and, of late, also in France – has not yet been envisaged.
Apart from regulations under the copyright laws, there is no national legislation envisaging substantial financial support for writers and book publishers in Italy, with the only exception of a few book awards and limited indirect support to journals of "high cultural interest". The main – quite substantial – state financial support for most book publishing and distribution is indirect support: with a regulation establishing a VAT rate of 4%.
In a country with exceptionally low reading rates (see chapter 8.2.1), the creation, in 2006, of a Centre for Books and Reading at the Ministry for Heritage, endowed with a significant level of autonomy, has been generally welcomed. The mission assigned to the Centre is the promotion of book publishing – through educational campaigns and through prizes and events, both in Italy and abroad – and a better awareness of the role of reading for the building of citizenship.
As for libraries, legislative and regulatory functions related to local public and private libraries were transferred to the regions in 1972, and most of the twenty regions have since adopted ad hoc legislation. MiBAC, though, is still directly in charge of 46 state libraries, including the two national libraries of Rome and Florence. From the legislative point of view, they are included in the cultural goods dealt with by the Codex.