Letter: Discounted books will push up prices

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The Independent Online
Sir: The first sentence of your article on the referral of the Net Book Agreement to the Restrictive Practices Court ("OFT moves on book price fixing", 1 April) suggests that this move "could mean lower book prices". On the contrary, the abolition of the Net Book Agreement would have exactly the opposite result: some bestsellers might initially appear to be cheaper but book prices overall would rise.

The vast majority of UK booksellers do not believe that discounting will result in a sufficient number of additional copies being sold to compensate for lower profits on discounted titles.

Selective price cutting would inevitably lead to compensatory increases in the price of other books and independent bookshops would be unable to compete with supermarkets which will undoubtedly claim bigger discounts from publishers to fund the price cuts. The customer would therefore end up with a restricted choice of titles, at higher prices, from fewer shops.

The Office of Fair Trading last carried out an inquiry into the Net Book Agreement in 1989, when it decided not to refer the Agreement to the Court.

It is particularly unfortunate that it has selected this delicate stage in the economic recovery to challenge the mechanism that has encouraged and nurtured what the OFT recognised as "the emergence of national and regional chains dedicated to providing a wide selection of titles and also ensured wide consumer choice throughout the country".

Yours faithfully,


Chief Executive

The Booksellers' Association

London, SW1

4 April