Letter: Book agreement and disagreement

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The Independent Online
Sir: Terry Maher, chairman of the Pentos group, still in pursuit of his favourite hobby-horse, the Net Book Agreement, asks me (letter, 6 August) to explain why, as he alleges, 'in the past two years, UK book prices have increased by about 50 per cent more than general price inflation'.

According to the Central Statistical Office, while general inflation in the two years 1990 and 1991 was 15.6 per cent, the prices of books bought by consumers went up only 13.3 per cent. The Publishers Association's own figures for 'consumer' books also show price increases over the two years just below inflation.

I must also dispute Mr Maher's claim that 'the price of a book in the US is often half that of its British equivalent'. This risks comparing apples and peaches, given that the US market enjoys economies of scale five times those of the UK market, but the average price of a hardback new fiction title in the US in 1991 was dollars 21.88, which was pounds 12.35 at the 1991 exchange rate (or pounds 14.50 if the more relevant 'purchasing power parity' is used), which compares with the equivalent UK figure of pounds 12.03.

Yours faithfully,


Chief Executive

The Publishers Association

London, WC1

7 August