Letter: Why the Net Book Agreement must stay

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Flavell's theory (Letters, 6 November) that the British book trade could negate the destructive effects of VAT on books by implementing a second disastrous policy - abandoning the Net Book Agreement - is simplistic. It is a fallacy that the NBA keeps book prices artificially high; on the contrary, in the free-for-all Mr Flavell advocates, the inevitable result would be that the prices of the books to be offered at cut prices would have to be made artificially high in the first place.

In order to reduce their already low margins, bookshops could only survive by selling enormous numbers of fewer titles so the choice of books would be drastically reduced, with the minority-interest and risky first novels being sacrificed. Similarly, only the large chains would survive a price-war in the current economic climate, so there would soon be a significant reduction in book outlets. Smaller towns would be left without any.

It is largely the size of the print-run that determines the price of a book, so of course US book prices are lower than ours; in Iceland, they are far higher. But it is a mistake to believe that the American book trade is an exemplary model. We have a file of articles and several American mail-order customers to prove that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the way bookselling has gone in America.

Yours faithfully,

CYNTHIA REAVELL

Martello Bookshop

Rye, East Sussex

7 November

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