Let me just state up front that I love America and wouldn’t live anywhere else but, I also believe there’s room for a blend of socialism and capitalism to exist in a democratic society, and when it comes to how books are sold or treated, I prefer what the French and other advanced nations do.
They protect books and the printed word. I applaud them—and so should you.
Here in the U.S., thanks largely to Amazon, books have become commoditized. You can buy clothes based on price—or a desk or the hotel you vacation at. But books should not be purchased based on price alone.
Sure price is a factor. One may buy a used book vs. a new one, to save money. Others will buy a paperback rather than the higher-priced hardcover. But when books become so devalued and sell at a loss, you have to question how such pricing helps the long-term viability of books.
In the U.S. it seems the publishing market is ruled by one company—Amazon—and five major conglomerate publishers—and one physical retailer (Barnes & Noble). When Amazon makes a change, the publishing industry trembles and acquiesces.
But the Hatchette-Amazon battle is now being waged and the repercussions of it could dictate the fate of publishing’s long-term viability. However, in other countries, books are a much healthier product.
In France, where Amazon only owns 10-12% of the book market—but 70% of online sales, Amazon is contained because of laws passed to protect and support bookstores and publishers.
The law says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books. Further, booksellers can’t offer more than a 5% discount off a book’s cover price.
I wish it were that way here.
In Germany, books can’t be discounted. In fact, six of the 10 biggest book-selling countries have versions of fixed book prices—Japan, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Germany, and France.
Britain used to have a fixed-price system into the 1990s—but once it abandoned it the book world was hit hard. A third of its independent bookstores closed in the past nine years, as supermarkets and Amazon discounted some books by more than 50%.
In France, where only 3% of book sales are e-books, 70% of its citizens report having read at least one book last year. The average among French readers is 15 books a year.
Many products and services can and should compete, in part, on price, but I believe staunchly that books cannot be commoditized. To preserve the value of books, we must take the finances out of the equation. Yes, I want a touch of socialism to support the liberty of books. Save the price wars for sales of widgets, not books.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014
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