An influential Parliamentary Committee has called for introduction of a minimum price for books and other literary products. Citing research that showed that the real price of literature has fallen dramatically in the last 30 years, the Home Affairs Select Committee wants to ban special promotions and prohibit supermarkets and other outlets from selling books at a loss to attract customers. Chairman Keith Vase said that popular titles were 69% more affordable now than they had been in 1980. "Police are spending too much time dealing with reading-fuelled social unrest, and the easy availability of reading material is contributing to the problem. More working time is lost through reading than through accidents in the bath, and there is increasing evidence of older people stocking up and reading at home, often solitarily. They may be unaware of the dangers of excessive reading, which can damage eyesight and contribute to obesity and heart disease. We are asking for a ban.
"We are particularly concerned at products intended to entice younger people to read. Brands such as Harry Potter may seem innocuous, but they can quickly become habit-forming. Studies suggest that early reading increases the risk of developing a lifelong reading habit."
Besides seeking to legislate against the sale of cut-price literature, the committee wants to revoke the licences of some outlets currently authorised to sell reading matter; introduce prominent health warnings drawing attention to the physical and mental health consequences of reading; and outlaw reading in public places. When it was suggested to Mr Vaj that some people enjoyed reading and that moves to restrict it might be unpopular, he replied, "Happy readers lead to unhappy communities. The Government needs to act decisively in the public interest."
[For any non-UK readers, a Select Committee has today called for restrictions on the sale of alcohol]