Fixed Prices for Books?

October 18th, 2012 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Fixed Prices for Books?
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In Germany, a fixed book price is a legal constraint which forces publishing houses to set a certain price, which is then legally binding for all retailers . As long as the original set price is not reversed, which can happen 18 months after the publication, or it is resold book retailers cannot change the price in any form or way. The main goals of this system are:
→ protecting books as a cultural asset
→ securing a great variety of titles
→ aid nationwide supply with books
A fixed price system was first introduced in 1888 and, despite its long tradition, there are certain new developments that need to be taken into consideration. The most evident modern example being ebooks and how they should be priced. According to the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (the German equivalent to the Publishers Assocation) they should have fixed prices because they mirror printed books in their attributes.
What made me think about the whole system was going into a bookshop in the UK and comparing the prices in store to those on Amazon. The newest Ken Follet title Winter of the World costs £10 in hardback, with the Kindle Version selling for only £5.99. Compare this to the German Hardcover, priced at 29.90€, and the Kindle Version, selling at 22.99€. this seems to be a very low price. I cannot decide which system is preferable. On the one hand I can buy books here for a great price, but I feel that the German system has its benefits too. Publishing houses give less discounts and therefore may generate a higher revenue, resulting in being able to plan their budget more accurately. From a professional point of view I can see the advantages of this system; however as a consumer I prefer the lower UK prices.
The topic of fixed prices versus free price setting is very interesting and has lots of room for discussions. There will undoubtedly be some friction in the German industry in the future, mainly due to ebook prices. Big players like Amazon and Apple will drive a hard bargain to establish low prices. This may lead to a more competitive market, similar to the UK market. Or the status quo will continue. Only time will tell.

Eva Graf