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Beyond the Dogma of the Fixed Book Price Agreement

  • Frederick van der Ploeg

After describing the essential features of the book market, a welfare analysis of the fixed book price agreement is given. Allowance is made for the opportunity cost of reading. Theoretically, the agreement pushes up book prices and depresses book sales. However, more titles will be published, particularly of books with low price elasticity and that take a long time to read. Potential advantages of better service, distribution and retail networks seem less relevant. The book market is one of imperfect competition, but even so the cross-subsidy argument is unlikely to be valid. A qualitative analysis of the Dutch situation is given. Tentative conclusions are that one should be more concerned about the number of well-stocked bookshops than the diversity of published titles and that debutantes do not face big barriers to entry. One should be even more concerned about the falling proportions of people reading books. Governments fail to set (quantitative) objectives for the fixed book price agreement, which makes it difficult to evaluate its success and contributes to it being treated as a dogma in the book world and the political arena.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 949.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_949
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  1. Frank Mathewson & Ralph Winter, 1998. "The Law and Economics of Resale Price Maintenance," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 57-84, April.
  2. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  3. Howard P. Marvel & Stephen McCafferty, 1984. "Resale Price Maintenance and Quality Certification," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 346-359, Autumn.
  4. Holahan, William L., 1979. "A theoretical analysis of resale price maintenance," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 411-420, December.
  5. Howard P. Marvel & Raymond Deneckere & James Peck, 1995. "Demand Uncertainty and Price Maintainance: Markdowns as Destructive Competition," Working Papers 018, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  6. Throsby,David, 2000. "Economics and Culture," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521586399.
  7. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and ripoffs: a model of monopolistically competitive price dispersion," Special Studies Papers 94, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Deneckere, R. & Marvel, H.P. & Peck, J., 1995. "Demand Uncertainty and Price Maintenace : Markdowns as Destructive Competition," Working papers 9507, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  9. Mankiw, N Gregory, 1985. "Small Menu Costs and Large Business Cycles: A Macroeconomic Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 529-38, May.
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