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Fixed Book Price Regulation, Is It Necessaryssary?

On November 1st, the number of participants who signed an online petition to pull the Fixed Book Price Regulation received over 200 thousand signatures. This petition started on the 14th of October, right after the government announced that the Fixed Book Price Regulation that already exists will be strengthened.

The Fixed Book Price Regulation allows only a 10 to 15 percent discount on books, both online and offline. This law was made in 2003 to support local bookstores by preventing price competition between online bookstores and small physical bookstores. These regulations extended to cover e-books in 2014. However, the effects of these regulations were not as strong as expected. The government came to the conclusion that the regulations needed to be amended.

New regulations will affect Webtoons too. While paper books and e-books are under strict regulation, Webtoons, which are a fast growing online comic book system, have been left largely unregulated. Since Webtoons are quite different from e-books, many laws regarding e-books couldn’t be applied to Webtoons.

The underwhelming effects of the current regulations, and the need for new laws regarding Webtoons, led government policy makers to take steps towards strengthening these regulations. The discount range will decrease to 5 percent, and each Webtoon issue will be counted as a single book in order to be controlled by the same book laws. Most Webtoons are free, so this change will make them cost money like other books. This might seem reasonable to some, but hundreds of thousands of people are opposed to this idea. Here are some opinions from the students of CWNU on this matter.

“I’m Kim Ji-hyun from the Chinese department. I think this law will fail. The number of physical bookstores is still decreasing. We have seen already that these regulations don’t save local bookstores. If you want to make a law to protect local stores, you must first decide if they need to be protected. I am sorry to say this, but to be honest, the disappearance of local physical bookstores proves that they are not needed anymore. It is pointless to make laws to protect something that has been replaced by something better. If these regulations get strengthened, customers will suffer and there still won’t be any benefits for local bookstores.

The plan to change the Webtoon system is very bad too. I read 5 to 8 Webtoons every day, for free. Even though I do not pay for them, the authors make a profit from the ads that I watch on their Webtoons. If the law requires me to pay 500 won for each of them, I will surely be reading less Webtoons. I do not want to spend thousands of won every day on comic books. If the Webtoons lose readers like me, they will eventually have less income anyway.”

“Hi, I’m Nam Gyum from the department of nursing. I think these laws have to be strengthened. I heard that people who vote against these laws claim that the number of book buyers and readers will decrease as the book prices become fixed. I think that this is an incorrect assumption. It is not a law meant to raise prices, but to protect them. People who truly understand the worth of the knowledge gained from books will acknowledge that books are worth the money. They will willingly pay for books to help support authors for sharing their knowledge. Also, it won’t affect those who can’t afford to buy books because those people prefer using libraries anyway.

I think Webtoon authors do not get paid as much as they should be. Even though Webtoons are one of the most popular and influential forms of media nowadays, many authors who actually create them still face financial challenges. They work very diligently to issue new episodes every week. The quality and length of episodes are generally good too since the creators receive feedback after each weekly episode. Many Webtoon authors are now better known than book authors. Yet only the top Webtoon authors make decent money from their work. I believe this law will give them the money that they deserve, and it will eventually lead to higher quality Webtoons.”

“I’m Han Si-yun from the Department of Vocal Music. I understand that this law seems very practical. But the reality is worse than it looks. It is similar to other laws applied in other countries such as in Japan and France. While those countries had very detailed plans for old books, e-books, and best sellers, the Korean laws do not include such details. There will be more ways to abuse these laws than to take proper advantage of them. The only change I can expect from the new laws is ‘impractical prices’ becoming the number one reason why Koreans don’t want to read books in the near future. The government should encourage and help people to read books, and these regulations will bring the exact opposite effect.

Several years ago, the government made a law to close large retail stores every other Sunday to protect local markets. The book price regulations have the same goal, to push customers to buy at smaller shops. However, there are no alternative shopping options for us this time. If Emart is not open on Sunday, we can still choose between going to the local markets or putting off shopping to some other day. But if the book prices become fixed, we will be forced to spend the same price everywhere that we buy books. Not allowing consumers to have different price options feels like a communist regulation, rather than a capitalist one. We should not ignore the market economy system.”

Stacks of books in a bookstore.

Han Si-in  siin0517@naver.com

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