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E-book pricing and vertical restraints

Author

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  • Babur De los Santos

    (Clemson University)

  • Matthijs R. Wildenbeest

    (Indiana University)

Abstract

This paper empirically analyzes how the use of vertical price restraints has impacted retail prices in the market for e-books. In 2010, five of the six largest publishers simultaneously adopted the agency model of book sales, allowing them to directly set retail prices. This led the Department of Justice to file suit against the publishers in 2012, the settlement of which prevents the publishers from interfering with retailers’ ability to set e-book prices. Using a unique dataset of daily e-book prices for a large sample of books across major online retailers, we exploit cross-publisher variation in the timing of the return to the wholesale model to estimate its effect on retail prices. We find that e-book prices for titles that were previously sold using the agency model decreased by 18 percent at Amazon and 8 percent at Barnes & Noble. Our results are robust to different specifications, placebo tests, and synthetic control groups. Our findings illustrate a case where upstream firms prefer to set higher retail prices than retailers and help to clarify conflicting theoretical predictions on agency versus wholesale models.

Suggested Citation

  • Babur De los Santos & Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2017. "E-book pricing and vertical restraints," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 85-122, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:qmktec:v:15:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11129-017-9183-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s11129-017-9183-z
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    Cited by:

    1. Maximilian Maurice Gail & Phil-Adrian Klotz, 2021. "The Impact of the Agency Model on E-book Prices: Evidence from the UK," MAGKS Papers on Economics 202111, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    2. Babur De los Santos & Daniel P. O'Brien & Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2018. "Agency Pricing and Bargaining: Evidence from the E-Book Market," Working Papers 18-14, NET Institute.
    3. Hunold, Matthias & Kesler, Reinhold & Laitenberger, Ulrich & Schlütter, Frank, 2018. "Evaluation of best price clauses in online hotel bookings," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 542-571.
    4. De los Santos, Babur, 2018. "Consumer search on the Internet," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 66-105.
    5. Johnson, Justin P., 2020. "The agency and wholesale models in electronic content markets," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 69(C).
    6. Gaudin, Germain & White, Alexander, 2014. "On the antitrust economics of the electronic books industry," DICE Discussion Papers 147 [rev.], Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    7. Hollenbeck, Brett, 2018. "Online Reputation Mechanisms and the Decreasing Value of Chain Affliation," MPRA Paper 91573, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Ratchford, Brian & Soysal, Gonca & Zentner, Alejandro & Gauri, Dinesh K., 2022. "Online and offline retailing: What we know and directions for future research," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 152-177.
    9. Silvi Berger & Morten Hviid, 2019. "Who Should Set Book Prices?," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Competition Policy (CCP) 2019-07, Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    10. Justus Haucap & Torben Stühmeier, 2016. "Competition and antitrust in Internet markets," Chapters, in: Johannes M. Bauer & Michael Latzer (ed.), Handbook on the Economics of the Internet, chapter 9, pages 183-210, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. Ron Adner & Jianqing Chen & Feng Zhu, 2020. "Frenemies in Platform Markets: Heterogeneous Profit Foci as Drivers of Compatibility Decisions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(6), pages 2432-2451, June.
    12. Cungen Zhu & Zhong Yao, 2018. "Comparison between the agency and wholesale model under the e-book duopoly market," Electronic Commerce Research, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 313-337, June.
    13. Loertscher, Simon & Niedermayer, Andras, 2020. "Entry-deterring agency," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 172-188.
    14. Budzinski Oliver & Köhler Karoline Henrike, 2015. "Is Amazon The Next Google?," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 66(1), pages 263-288, January.
    15. Shahryar Gheibi, 2020. "Low-Cost-Driven Leadership: A Theory for Price Dispersion in Competitive Markets," International Journal of Business and Economics, School of Management Development, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan, vol. 19(1), pages 61-76, June.
    16. Kim, Jin-Hyuk & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2021. "Eliminating digital rights management from the E-book market," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C).
    17. Andrea Mantovani & Claudio Piga & Carlo Reggiani, 2019. "Much ado about nothing? Online platform price parity clauses and the EU Booking.com case," Economics Discussion Paper Series 1909, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    18. Haucap, Justus & Heimeshoff, Ulrich, 2017. "Ordnungspolitik in der digitalen Welt," DICE Ordnungspolitische Perspektiven 90, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    19. Kittaka, Yuta & Matsushima, Noriaki & Saruta, Fuyuki, 2022. "Negative effect of price-matching policy on traditional retailers in a dual-channel supply chain with different content formats," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 161(C).
    20. Mantovani, Andrea & Piga, Claudio A. & Reggiani, Carlo, 2021. "Online platform price parity clauses: Evidence from the EU Booking.com case," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    E-books; Agency; Vertical restraints; Most favored nation; Media economics; Resale price maintenance; Amazon;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • L42 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Vertical Restraints; Resale Price Maintenance; Quantity Discounts

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