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City & Business: A long time dying

REPORTS of the death of the Net Book Agreement have been greatly exaggerated. The restrictive practice, which prevents retailers discounting newly published books, has been about to expire for at least the last five years.

Terry Maher, the former head of the Pentos retail chain, constantly claimed he was about to breach the NBA and so slay it. He never did, but he garnered an outrageous amount of free publicity for his Dillons book chain.

The NBA was about to die when the major publisher Reed International announced it was publishing all its titles non-net. That was two years ago and was supposed to open the floodgates.

Sir Bryan Carsberg's decision to challenge the NBA in the Restrictive Practices Court had the obituarists out again, despite the fact that a judgment could be three years away. And last week Hodder Headline's decision to follow Reed again had the hearse revving up.

The NBA is an archaic piece of nonsense. Only cynics who believe books are commodity items bought on the basis of price alone can seriously fear its demise. People won't stop reading T S Eliot because the latest Jeffrey Archer is a few quid cheaper.

The NBA will eventually wither away, and we'll wonder what all the fuss was about. But don't hold your breath.