Thursday, 17 June 2010

Bring back the Net Book Agreement!

... or so Sam Jordison argues in today's Guardian.

The original suggestion that the death of the NBA would not harm independent booksellers and promote a wider range of sales has clearly not borne fruit--and it's ironic to see that the chief executive of the now-defunct Dillons was its cheerleader.

What do you think?  Would the reintroduction of a price-fixing cartel be backward (and unenforceable) step?  Or would readers and writers be better served by an arrangement which stopped Tesco and Amazon undercutting the rest of market?  Would it see more titles published, or less?


Eliza Graham said...

I read this and I don't know what to think. Part of me believes that it's good that people can pick up a 'cheap' book in a supermarket and feel it's an everyday purchase, part of life. But so many independents have gone to the wall now. And it's us mid-listers who will vanish if this continues.

Alis said...

Surely the simplest way to stop Tesco and Amazon (and amybody else who might follow in their footteps) undercutting the rest of market IS to restore the NBA?

David Isaak said...

In the US. we've always been in the situation you're presently facing. Over here, the only NBA is the National Basketball Association.

We've also never received anything when libraries loan out our books.

The "mad pursuit of the bestseller" (Maxwell Perkins, circa 1930) on the part of US publishers has been around forever. So has the discount and supermarket book trade.

The main thing that killed the midlist over here was television, which wiped out the pulp and paperback originals market, where many writers served their apprenticeships. Pricing and the viability of bookstores never really entered in to it. Most people never went to bookstores to buy Ian Fleming or Stephen King in any case. (What Amazon has killed in the US is the used bookstores.)

But, then, things are a bit different Over Here than Over There. Good luck.

Len Tyler said...

I think that some very good questions have been raised, both in the Guardian piece and on this blog (thanks, Tim, for starting the discussion here).

The problem is that, as a writer, I'd like the NBA back and lots of independent bookshops. As a reader, I like being able to order any book I want cheaply online and receive it within twenty four hours. Likewise as a writer I like the idea of more books and a greater variety of books being published. But most people (actually, pretty well all of us) read only a tiny fraction of the books published in any given year, and plenty of readers stick largely within the narrow range of one or two genres. (And, if that's what you like, why not?) I suspect most people who are not writers, bookshop owners or publishers would find it difficult to see the personal advantage in reimposing the NBA.

So, in principle, I'm with those who would support some sort of new agreement on pricing, but I suspect the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.