From Mr Bryan Forbes

Sir: The estimable Germaine Greer was scattering her shot towards the Net Book Agreement, VAT and the Oxbridge publishers ("Away with price- fixing - and on with VAT!", 29 September), but missing her targets.

If we take her welcoming VAT on books alongside the discounting it is alleged we shall shortly be enjoying, her reasoning makes no sense. With VAT at the current rate, her latest book Slipshod Sibyls published at pounds 20, would jump to pounds 23.50 and no matter whether Asda et al reduced it to pounds 15, it would still incur the same VAT, and the price would go back to pounds 18.30. Whether Greer fans would take the trouble to find an Asda store (assuming they even stocked her book) for the sake of saving all of pounds 1.70 is open to doubt.

Regarding her contention that booksellers make extortionate profits to put her books on the shelves, independent booksellers such as myself are lucky to get 35 per cent discount which at the end of the year results in a net profit that hovers around the 1.5 per cent mark.

The economics of publishing no longer have connection with our literary heritage, they are City-driven by misguided, short-term considerations. I strongly question Ms Greer's contention that books have virtually had it as a way of storing and transmitting information - has she tried reading the classics on CD Rom? Myself, I find it difficult to hold a computer in bed.

If the pleasure of reading a good book is to be denied to future generations, then we are all impoverished and eventually our society will choke on its spurious materialism.

Yours sincerely,

Bryan Forbes

The Bookshop

Virginia Water,


29 September