Robert Haft said it—
“Books cost too much in San Francisco…” This tagline was uttered by Robert Haft, president of the discount book chain store, Crown Books, on television and radio ads during the 80s and 90s. The commercials were memorable to book lovers in The City because of the unusually high-pitched voice of Haft, and the truth he spoke; books were too expensive.
eBooks are too expensive too
The big downside for many e-book fans is the relatively expensive prices they are paying for their digital copies. New York Times best sellers in digital form are normally priced from $12.99 to $19.99. That’s a lot to pay for just words on a screen, and readers don’t even get to put these novels on display on their bookshelves.
The big fix
As with all things digital or electronic, prices always go down. Book publishers, seeing the writing on the wall, so to speak, didn’t want this to happen to their industry.
To prevent the slide, six major book publishers agreed to enact their e-book business model on “agency pricing.” This, in effect, locks in the prices of e-books and cannot be discounted by any reseller without the permission of the publisher.
Anyone care to guess if any publisher has agreed to substantially lower their e-book prices yet?
Is it legal?
In short, we may have a modified version of price fixing by e-book publishers. However, it is illegal for businesses to agree on a common target price in order to prevent prices from dropping or to keep pricing high to maximize profits. In fact, such activity is a federal offense under the Sherman Antitrust law.
A free market, but not for readers
Readers love their e-books and the publishers know this because they’re the only act in town. But if they’re not careful, they could price themselves out of business as e-readers turn to their local libraries for their e-reading needs or wait for the hardcopy versions to arrive.
Where does all the money go?
Publishers and writers need to get fairly paid, but when printing costs, artwork costs, shipping costs, manufacturing costs, and warehousing costs are eliminated from book publisher overhead, in slightly modifying the words of Robert Haft:
Why do e-books still cost too much in San Francisco, and the nation?
Source: Wall Street Journal
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