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Bookselling in the UK

I recently commented on bookselling in the UK, and part of my statement was extracted in Richard Brooks' article in the Sunday Times on 30th July 2017. You can read my full statement here. 

"It would be easy to look at a case like this and see the villains as being the publishers and the large chain booksellers and online retailers, but it’s not as simple as that.

I very much want independent booksellers to survive and prosper—it’s not exaggerating to say that they are lantern-bearers of civilization. But I want publishers and large booksellers to do well too. I want a book trade that’s healthy and prosperous in every part. Not surprisingly, I want authors to be better rewarded in particular, as the fount of everything the book trade depends on.

The problem with setting one part of the book ecology against the rest is that it prevents us from seeing the real trouble, which is the insane, inhumane, perverted belief that the market (a) knows best, and (b) is something natural, like gravity, which we can do nothing to alter. Of course we can alter the way the market works. It’s a human construction. For almost the whole of the twentieth century the book trade in the UK was governed by the Net Book Agreement, which allowed every part of it to prosper equitably without distorting the influence of this sector or that. Whether we can bring it back, or whether we can find a new settlement that takes account of the existence of online bookselling, which the NBA didn’t have to cope with, is a discussion that’s urgently needed."

01 August 2017

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