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”. By far the main – quite substantial – state financial support for most book publishing and distribution is indirect support, through a regulation establishing a reduced VAT rate of 4%: also adopted for the press.
In a country with exceptionally low reading rates (see chapter 6.2), 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. Given the scant and further declining Italian reading indexes (see Table 10, chapter 6.2) this mission, though, is still far to have been accomplished…
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. MiBACT, 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, those libraries are included in the cultural goods dealt with by the Codex.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the recent Decree of 28 January 2016, by changing the state Sovrintendenze for Archives to the Sovrintendenze for Archives and Books – will also retransfer from the regions to the state responsibilities for the safeguarding of all Italian libraries.