Andrew Allison

Harry Potter and the plight of the bookseller

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Today sees the launch of the latest ‘Harry Potter’ book. Those of you who were really keen to get hold of a copy will have been going to their local bookstore at midnight! The rest of us – me included – will have waited until a more sensible hour before purchasing their copy. I have one on order and meant to go in and collect it today, but I think I will wait until Monday instead.

The reason I am reminding you of the launch of this book doesn’t mean J K Rowling has put me on commission. I don’t think my blog is that widely read. What annoys me is the large supermarkets cut-pricing this book and once again taking away the small booksellers bread and butter. I really am sick and tired of the likes of Tesco and Asda doing things like this. The day they stock a wide range of books and become a proper bookseller is the day I will support them, however I think it is highly unlikely this will happen. It is far easier and far more profitable to cherry pick. They do exactly the same with music. Readers from the Beverley/Hull area will remember a shop called ‘Andy’s Records.’ It was an excellent record shop, stocking a wide selection of music from all genres. When Tesco opened in Beverley and started cut pricing the latest chart CDs, Andy’s Records’ days were numbered. Now what we have is less choice; not more choice. I have been told that as someone who believes in the free market, I cannot complain when things like this happen. I think differently though.

Occasionally markets have to regulated for the good of all. If one company has too large a market share, there is every chance they will put so many out of business, that the consumer will be left with fewer options. This does not lead to lower prices, in fact it leads to prices being kept higher than they normally would be. Our large supermarkets are cherry picking the best titles in books, CDs and DVDs; discounting them, at the expense of dedicated booksellers and record stores. They are putting these stores out of business and leaving the consumer with less choice on the high street.

If prices for new releases could not be discounted for a set period of time after they are released, this would give a level playing field to all. This is what the free market is all about. We want more choice; not less.

  1. A free market is nothing at all to do with protectionism, which is what you are advocating. The publishers were perfectly at liberty to not sell the books to the big supermarkets if they so desired.

    Harry Potter is a commodity item, the same as the chart CDs and potatoes. If I want a specialist book, back catalogue recording or vegetable, I’ll go looking for them. Truth be known, I’d probably look on the Internet if I was prepared to wait, which doesn’t help specialist shops at all, unless they are online.

  2. I believe the pulishers were having a battle with Asda to try and stop them stocking the book after they discovered what they intended to do. You can have a free market with a certain amount of protectionism, if that is for the good of the market place. Are you advocating scrapping the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

  3. This is the whole Wal-Mart thing all over again.

  4. Why is there only one Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

  5. Since price regulations (net book agreement) were removed the number and variety of books published in the UK has actually soared. If discounting gets people reading then that’s a good thing, there will always be a place for book shops from chains to independents as long as there are people who want to read beyond the limited stock of supermarkets. If anybody presents a threat to proper book shops its the likes of ABE Books and Amazon, but even then there is probably room for all of them in the book market.

  6. Whatever label one puts on it, I prefer books are sold by the booksellers. I hate the erosion of the small shops to some megamart monstrosity.

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