Scholars are increasingly concerned with the phenomenon by which successive policy areas in Europe become 'communitarised' - by which we mean that the sector's governance increasingly takes place at the supranational level. As was the case for the environment or the telecommunications sector, no formal competence on book policy, and more generally on cultural policy, appeared in the original treaty, and hence I seek to explain why and how the communitarisation of the policy debate on book prices took place. On the one hand, the European Court of Justice and the Commission, which benefited from the complicity of subnational private actors, were making use of their judicial and regulatory powers in order to liberalise the book sector. On the other hand, member states which felt that their policy traditions were challenged by European intervention tried to shift the decision-making process back to an intergovernmental mode in an attempt to impose an alternative policy solution, treating books as a special product. The main argument that is put forward in this article is that once the locus of the decision-making process had shifted de facto towards the EU level, the diversity of actors' preferences, decision rules and the nature of the status quo made it impossible for the tenants of dirigiste solutions to impose their policy preferences.