Why are books so expensive in Spain?

If you've ever stepped into a Spanish bookshop and been shocked by the price tags you're not the only one. In Spain, you can expect to pay up to three times as much as you would for a book in the UK. So why is reading so expensive?

Why are books so expensive in Spain?
Book in Spain can be three times more expensive thn in the UK. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

In Spain, reading can be a costly pastime.

According to Statista, the average price of a book in 2019 was €19.99. Meanwhile, in the UK, book prices reached a record high in 2019, but still remain much lower. British readers pay on average £8.70 (€10.60) for a book.

In the US, paperbacks usually cost between $13.95 (€11.85) and $17.95 (€15.25).

So what explains this disparity?

The main reason that books are expensive in Spain is that book prices are regulated.

Spanish law states that “any person who publishes, imports or re-imports books must establish a fixed price of sale to the public,” and this must be done “independently from where the book is being sold.”

This means that it’s the publishers and not the booksellers who determine the retail price of their books.

The aim of this is to promote non-price competition between booksellers, and it’s also a way of promoting the sale of little-known books rather than only catering to blockbusters.

Other countries like France and Germany have similar laws restricting book prices. 

Booksellers are also not allowed to offer more than a 5 percent discount off the cover price.

This doesn’t mean shops are never allowed to reduce prices by more than 5 percent, but there are strict rules on when they are allowed to do so (such as when books are several years old or second hand).

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. One negative outcome of this however, is that since then 500 independent bookshops have closed in the UK, and now chain stores like WHSmiths and Waterstone’s are the norm.

While independent bookshops make up most of Spain’s bookselling sector, many have closed in the past few years as they struggled with the arrival of Amazon, which was able to offer fast home delivery and reduced or even no shipping fees.

High book prices are likely partly to blame for Spain’s low number of readers. According to a 2018 report by the CEGAL Spanish association of booksellers, 21 percent of the population never or only occasionally reads.

READ ALSO: Ten great books about Spain

When it comes to household expenditure in newspapers, books and stationery, Spain ranks bottom of the list compared to other EU countries, according to a report by Eurostat. In 2016, households in Spain devoted 0.7 percent of their household expenditure to reading, compared to 2.1 percent in Slovakia and 1.6 percent in Germany.

However, the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic actually helped reverse this trend, as people used their time at home to take up reading. According to a recent survey, the number of frequent readers went from 50 percent to 54 percent during the pandemic.

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EXPLAINED: How new mothers in Spain can get an extra €100 a month

The Spanish government has announced a new benefit for mothers of children aged 0 to 3 which adds up to €1,200 a year. Here’s everything you need to know about it, from who is eligible to how to apply.

EXPLAINED: How new mothers in Spain can get an extra €100 a month

Due to inflation and the rising cost of living, families in Spain are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for the costs of childcare and products that babies and young children need such as nappies and formula.

In order to help new mothers meet those extra costs, the Spanish government has announced a new €100 benefit as part of its newly announced 2023 national budget.

Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz confirmed the new measure – dubbed el cheque bebé (the baby cheque) – on Tuesday October 4th after her meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Who is the benefit for?

The aid package will be for all mothers with children between 0 and 3 years of age.

Benefits already exist for working mothers, which are either paid out each month or included as a deduction on their personal income tax return, but now it has been extended to all new mothers, whether they are working or not.

READ ALSO – Costs, tax cuts and choices: What you should know about childcare in Spain

Are there any other requirements for receiving the benefit?

The only requirement, in addition to having a child under three years of age, is that you have to be registered with Spain’s social security system (has made contributions for a minimum of 30 days), a mutual society or already receive financial aid such as unemployment benefits. 

Therefore, foreign mothers who are legally resident in Spain and paying their social security fees can also access the benefit.

How much will I get and when?

Families will be given a €100 cheque per month, which adds up to a total of €1,209 per year.

The measure will come into force from January 1st 2023.

How can I apply?

There are three ways to apply for the aid, either in person, by phone or online.

In person: You will need to fill out modelo (form) 140 and make an appointment to take it to your local tax office.

By phone: You can call 901 200 347 to reach the Tax Agency telephone service centre. You will need information handy such as your NIF/NIE, your social security information and your bank details.

Online: If you have a digital certificate, you can log on to the Agencia Tributaria website and submit your request over the internet.

READ ALSO – Access all areas: how to get a digital certificate in Spain to aid online processes

This new aid will be part of the new Ley de Familias or Family Law which will include “new permissions for caregivers, permission to attend to unforeseen family circumstances and a new eight-week parental leave”, the Ministry of Social Rights stated.  

The law also states that single-parent families with two children will be allowed the same benefits as familias numerosas (large families) with four or more kids. This includes discounts for certain services such as train tickets.