Letter: Prices, predators and freedom in the books market

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Sir: In your Media section of 29 July, you show a photograph of Thomas Heneage Art Books, with the caption suggesting that specialist shops such as ourselves have much to fear if the Net Book Agreement is abolished.

With 10,000 titles in stock, I am not afraid of competition from the big stores, which are largely unable to stock the sort of books we sell in large quantities. The threat to the specialist seller of international art books is not the NBA, but the cartels and exclusive distribution agreements that the publishers operate. Distributors of imported books regularly mark up their titles by as much as 40 per cent; UK imprints often retail in the US at below their UK net price.

This spring a book, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, was 'published' in the UK at a net price of pounds 195. We have been selling the same title for the last two years at pounds 90, having purchased stock freely in the US in 1990. Co- editions and rights agreements are often more to blame for the high price of art books than the NBA. Let us have a truly free market.

Yours sincerely,


London, SW1

30 July