By now I’m sure you have all heard about the book price wars. I decided to leave it alone. These mass merchandisers are gaining more than enough publicity and I have no desire to help them out.
However, after a customer recently asked why she couldn’t purchase a book online and then bring it in to be signed by the author, I felt the need to speak up. I refuse to mention the names of the retailers in question, you know who they are. I refuse to mention the price they are offering; those of you who drive thirty minutes to save a nickel or pay $3.99 shipping to save a dollar have already tracked down what you believe to be the best deal.
Whatever I say you may say to yourself, “she is just saying that so she can stay in business”. Why would you believe me? So, don’t listen to me.
How about John Grisham's literary agent, David Gernert: “If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over..I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted bestsellers take the consumer's attention away from emerging writers.”
Or how about Stephen King: “It’s time to give the smaller bookstores a little breathing room.”
David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, publisher of James Patterson's I, Alex Cross, said that he would like the U.S. to follow France's prohibition of selling books for less than the cover price. "I do think this massive devaluation of the industry's crown jewels could very quickly be extremely harmful...And I would not be alone in thinking that."
Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson said the price wars "will prove damaging to publishers, authors, booksellers, mass retailers, and ultimately consumers." Because these online retailers are “systematically conditioning consumers to expect these lower prices,” Although consumers may appreciate lower prices in the short run, "they are not good in the long run if authors and publishers are no longer willing to assume the risk of creating and producing the kind of quality and selection consumers currently enjoy."
The American Booksellers Association sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting that it investigate practices by the retailers in question that it believes constitute illegal predatory pricing that is damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers. “If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public, and will allow the few remaining mega booksellers to raise prices to consumers unchecked.”
Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in San Francisco and Corte Madera, California explains, “Predatory pricing is a means of driving other booksellers out of business. When this happens, the choice of books is one of the first things to suffer. Some readers think that if their favorite store closes they can always buy the book they want somewhere else. But that's a dangerous delusion -- the books they want may not be there at all. In fact, these types of disruptions in how books are sold or distributed have a profound effect on what publishers decide to publish in the first place.”
Now it’s time for you to make a decision. What is best for you, your reading habits, and your community? Isn’t it bad enough that these online retailers divert sales from your local businesses and wipe out the sales tax your community so desperately needs? Do you really want them deciding what you can and can not read in the future?