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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How to change your surname after marriage or divorce in Spain

While it's not usual for Spaniards to change their last names when they get married, it is possible for foreigners who want to do so. These are the steps to follow and the requirements you have to meet.

How to change your surname after marriage or divorce in Spain

In Spain, it’s not a tradition for women to change their surnames when they get married. Spaniards typically have two surnames – their father’s surname, followed by their mother’s surname (although nowadays it can be the other way around). The couple’s children will take the first surname of their father and the first surname of their mother to create their own last name.

READ MORE: Why do Spaniards have two surnames?

But what if a foreigner gets married in Spain and wants to change their last name to that of their partner as per tradition in their own country?

Or how about if you already have your partner’s name, but you get divorced in Spain, and what to change your surname back to your maiden name? Can this be done?

The simple answer is yes, you can change your last name in Spain, but there are several rules and circumstances that you must meet.

READ ALSO – Civil union or marriage in Spain: which one is better?

Keep in mind that although it can be done, because it’s not a usual thing to do in Spain when you get married or divorced, the process is complicated and you may have to repeat a lot of the bureaucratic processes you did when you first arrived in Spain.

The conditions you must meet to change your surname are:

– You must have a legitimate reason for the change, you can’t just change your surname simply because you feel like it.

– The new surname must belong to the person requesting the change. For example, if you want to change your name because you divorced, you cannot just request a brand new surname, you will have to prove that your maiden name belonged to you and change it back to that or another family surname you can prove you have a connection to. 

– If you want to have two last names, then both these names can’t be from the same side of the family. For example, you can’t have two names from your father’s side of the family and none from your mother’s.

The change cannot be detrimental to third parties.

READ ALSO: Can non-residents or new arrivals get married in Spain?

There are, however, some exceptions to the rules above. These include:

– Spelling corrections – Sometimes it might be possible that your surname is spelt wrong due to an error on behalf of a parent or grandparent or the Civil Registrar who registered the name in the first place. In this case, you are allowed to change your name to the correct spelling.

– Gender violence – If you are a victim of gender violence, then you may change your surname without the above requirements being met. You need to prove it’s a case of protection and there have been legal proceedings involved.

– Offensive surnames – You may change your surname if you meet the rules above, unless it’s offensive or means that there will be a great inconvenience.

– Preservation of traditional Spanish surnames – While this won’t apply to foreigners, those who have very traditional Spanish surnames that are at risk of dying out, may not be allowed to change them, in order to keep these names alive.   

How do I change my last name in Spain?

– If you got married in Spain, you can change your surname by going to the Civil Registry office in your local area, within five days of the ceremony, requesting the name change. You must show them your marriage documents as proof. They will issue you with a marriage certificate with the new surname.

– If you were married abroad, you will have to get your marriage certificate translated into Spanish and apostilled in order for it to be recognised.

– Similarly, if you got divorced in Spain or abroad, you will need to show the official paperwork of your divorce and some proof of your maiden name (or your mother’s maiden name if you prefer).

This might sound simple, but this is only the first step, you will need to change your name on every single official document you have in Spain and abroad in your home country. This means it’s essentially like starting out again when you first moved here. 

– The next most important thing to do is to get your surname changed on your passport. You will do this by contacting the authorities in your home country. The process will be slightly different, depending on where you live.

– Once you have ID documents in your new surname, you’re ready to change all the documents you have in Spain. This means firstly applying for a new green residency card if you’re from the EU or a new TIE card if you’re from a third country. You will essentially have to go through the whole process again, showing your new passport, any financial or health requirements, as well as everything you needed to show the first time around.

READ ALSO: Is it better to do a joint or separate tax declaration if you’re a couple in Spain?

– You’ll also have to change your name on your padrón certificate from your local town hall or ayuntamiento – this may be needed in order to get your new residency cards.

– Remember, you’ll also need to change your name on your bank account, public or private health card, driving licence and at the social security office for tax purposes. You’ll need to visit each institution separately, showing them your new passport and Spanish residency card, stating your new surname. You may need to go through the whole process of applying for them again, so it could take some time.