Collapse of Net Book Agreement `within months' collapse'

The publishing house Hodder Headline today withdraws from the Net Book Agreement in a move that cuts the price of its books and is widely expected to herald the NBA's collapse.

The agreement, dating from 1899, is a price-fixing deal between publishers and booksellers to protect the wide range published and stocked in shops. It prevents booksellers offering discounts on "net" price books.

The withdrawal of Hodder Headline, following the 1992

decision by Reed Books to denet, is expected by insiders to herald the end. If one more major publisher withdraws - both Random House and Harper-Collins are wavering - it may not survive beyond the summer.

From today the public will be able to test such a prospect with discounts of 20 to 50 per cent in participating bookshops, such as Dillons, on Hodder Headline books including authors like John Le Carre.

According to the company's chief executive, Tim Hely Hutchinson, the agreement is history. "The NBA is crumbling around the booksellers and publishers. If people feel they are just performing a King Canute act they will give up"

The force behind attempts to keep it is the Publishers' Association, which last month launched an appeal to raise £1m for a legal defence. Battle begins in earnest in the spring when the Restrictive Practices Court will re-examine whether it is in the public interest.

The scheduled preliminary hearing comes after the August decision by the Office of Fair Trading to reconsider the issue. Its director general, Sir Bryan Carsberg, will have to satisfy the court that the publishing and bookselling trade has substantially changed since 1962, when it was last reviewed by the Restrictive Practices Court.

Mr Hely Hutchinson is confident it has. "There is much greater domination by chain booksellers and publishing conglomerates. That means the NBA is now existing to prop up the margins of a few strong companies ."

Arguments for keeping the agreement are that supermarkets would otherwise sell large quantities of a narrow range of bestsellers (cheaper without the NBA), cutting bookshop profits and forcing them to reduce their range. Fewer titles would be published, small booksellers would be unable to compete in the discounting wars and go under, print runs would shorten and the price of less popular books would rise to compensate for lower profits on bestsellers.

The opposing camp claims the NBA widens the range of books published, of which much is rubbish. Without it, publishers would be more discriminating, customers would be offered cheaper books and would, therefore, buy more, and literary interest would be stimulated.

Bill McGrath, chief executive of Pentos, owner of the Dillons chain, is among them. He says in the US, which has no pricing restrictions, expenditure a head on books is three times higher.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power