Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I found this article about German's book pricing policy, Buchpreisbindung, and how it may be helping to keep smaller book stores in business.

Some kibbles and bits:

"The idea [of the Buchpreisbindung] was to eliminate price competition in order to promote the same of little-known books," says Simone Thelen, spokewoman for the Mayersche chain.

Catherine Brull, a native of Belgium who has worked in the shop for seven years, is getting ready to crack open her new copy of Super Sad True Love Story, which is priced at 19.95 euros, about $28, including tax.

After price regulation ended in England, the price of books rose by 8 percent; and when it ended in Sweden, one out of four bookstores went out of business.

[O]ne of the major reasons Germany has a healthy book publishing industry, beyond its pricing law, is because Germans (like the English, the Irish, the Japanese, the French, and many other nationalities) tend to read more, and more seriously, than Americans.

In 2007 an Association of American Publishers (AAP) survey revealed that one in four Americans did not read a single book -- not one book -- the previous year.

"Books are not just a commodity here," [Simone Thelen] says. "They have a cultural value that has to be saved."


  1. That's a sad statistic. I bet more than one in four Americans watched a reality show. It seems like one in four starred in one!

  2. How is that possible? One in four? In an ENTIRE year?? And who would happily admit it when surveyed?

  3. Charlie, that's funny. The whole movement toward reality TV is a fascinating and sad thing to me.

    j a zobair, actually in Los Angeles, or at least among my circle, I can find dozens of people who don't read at all and happily admit to it. There's a sort of coolness associated with being employed or successful or whatever without trying. When I first started blogging I was actually surprised when most people told me all their friends read. That's not at all what I'm used to.

  4. I know people who don't read fiction, but I don't know anyone who doesn't read at all. Lots of people still read on the bus, I'm happy to report.

  5. I was actually surprised that the stat was that low. I would have expected it to be higher, based on other stats/surveys I've seen.

    I live in a large city and work at a university, and see people reading all the time. But when I go to visit my relatives in a small non-college town, I rarely see folks with a book. Including my own family members.

    It would be interesting if they broke those surveys down into fiction vs nonfiction - back when I worked at a bookstore (LONG time ago), nonfiction always outsold fiction. People who never pick up a novel will still buy cookbooks, how-to guides, celebrity bios, pop psych stuff, true crime, military history etc.

    I don't actually find it unusual at all that there are people who don't read books for pleasure (as opposed to "need info on something" folks). Not in this country, anyway. The culture I was raised in was not a book-reading one, and I was considered an oddball for reading a lot. And even *I* read more nonfiction than fiction (though in my case, that IS for pleasure).

    -Alex MacKenzie

  6. Scott, that's fair. A lot of my friends read in general. A lot of scientists read scientific papers, for example. They just don't read books.

    Alex, I think everything you said is true. It makes sense, in a way. I think there was a time when fiction provided more information to readers, a time when readers were able to learn more from fiction. That's probably still true if one was looking for that type of book.

  7. I don't see this happening in America. To quote the article, "The idea of the government regulating the price of consumer goods is anathema to most Americans, who have bought into free-market gospel and the Walmart mantra that price is everything, and lower is always better than higher."

    Though aren't things like milk being price-supported by the government? I would love to see Amazon have to charge as much for books as brick and mortar shops do. Though I don't know if that would stop the death of book stores or if it would just shovel more money into the giant hungry maw of Amazon.

  8. I'm no longer surprised when I talk to people who say they can't read my book simply because they have no interest in fiction whatsoever. It's sad, but true.

    I'm also no longer surprised at statistics like you've reported, either, because it seems America keeps getting dumber on a yearly basis. Reality shows are what make me think this. I've watched two episodes total in my entire life of a reality show. That was enough for me. I don't have anything against the idea of a reality show - it's simply the sheer amount of them and their popularity that has me dumbfounded.

  9. Scott, yeah, and if you read some of the comments to the article, there is some mention that the bookstores still have an advantage because they get the books cheaper from the publisher.

    Michelle, I sometimes wonder if the popularity of reality shows comes from people who are seeking truth in some way. Not that these shows are necessarily real, but I do wonder about that. I want to get into the mind of interesting characters when I read, and I can imagine that some of these reality shows are about some of the most bizarre and fascinating people.

  10. I think people watch reality TV to affirm their own worldview, frankly. I don't think they want to learn anything. I think they want to be told that the way they are is the right way to be. "Reality TV" seems to me to be very unrealistic, giving a very skewed and narrow view of what life actually is. People watch "Cops" or whatever so they can point and say, "Look how stupid that guy is. I'm not that stupid." Is that a search for truth? Maybe it is. Or if not truth, than affirmation of some sort?

  11. Affirmation is a better word. I could see, for example, if I had some strange fantasy or eating someone or of living forever or whatever, that I would turn to books to see if other people feel that way. Now we have the internet to turn to. Or reality TV, or whatever. We have other ways of figuring out how other people feel.


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