@KolokokoBird @christian_zerfass interesting, but if they care so much about reading, it's not natural to want to increase the price of books.

I had to deal with an exploitative protected bookstore for a while. So, I'm suspicious of these kinds of regulations.

The bookstore was invoicing $700+ for used books that they bought back from students for $1-5 each and kept lobbying for more -- which they kept getting.

@christian_zerfass There's a maximum discount (5%) law here in Spain long before online shops, to protect small book stores (and small publishers) from big chains. I think it's the same in Germany and more countries.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass Except the German law protects big retailers from innovation by smaller shops. Something like a Humble Bundle, for example, is illegal in Germany.

The price of a book must remain the same, irrespective of where it's sold. You can't discount it by packaging it with something else. Which means you can only improve your margins on the buying side, i.e. big retailers who buy in bulk can get margins small shops cannot.

It's a scam.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass Actually, it's worse than nothing. It actively prevents smaller shops from finding ways to make their stuff more attractive than that of big retailers. The law is insidious; it preaches equal chances for all, but equal chances always benefit those with the better market position. In effect, it protects the quasi monopolies of the large stores by pretending fairness.

@jens @christian_zerfass

Look, big chains and online shops know perfectly what a bundle is. And they always get a better price from their common suppliers no matter what are the market conditions, just because they buy big. There's no "innovation" that can save small stores against big actors that can bury you instantly in a price war. That's the old freemarketist fairy tale.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass I'm looking at this from the publisher's angle. If you can set a higher price on Amazon, you can absorb their ridiculous fees better than if you can't.

@jens @christian_zerfass Amazon would never accept a higher price, not in the wildest dream. Also, most publishers don't deal with points of sale directly (nor they pay fees to Amazon).

@tagomago @jens

I think tagomagos point is a good one. Fix the sales price, and big distributors with worldwide network can increase the margin by paying creators less per book but more in total (more sales).

In the Guardian article, it is also shown how a French minister called on people to buy local rather than online. It is true that only if people follow the call does a fixed consumer price help the book stores, as price competition is no factor.

@christian_zerfass @jens Actually creators (if by that you mean authors) tend to be out of this equation. They sign a contract with the publisher where a percentage (namely "royalties", usually an 8-10%) of the fixed price of every book sold is to be paid to them (discounts don't apply).

@tagomago @jens

Yes, you are right, I'd better had referred to publishers

@christian_zerfass @tagomago This argument presupposes that the visibility of a small entry in Amazon is the same as in a bookshop. It's not.

For small publishers - and authors - the main thing that makes sales is visibility. Being available at Amazon is necessary for ease of purchase once someone searches for you. But in order to be searched for, you first have to be visible enough to be noticed.

You can't get that visibility at Amazon.

@christian_zerfass @tagomago So this whole sales volume argument collapses at the start. It's valid enough later on.

It's also true, as a self published author friend of mine keeps mentioning, that one person's solutions don't have to apply to another. So anything I say here you can probably find valid counter arguments for.

But a fixed sales price really does nothing for small creators... it just stifles everything by which they can distinguish themselves.

@christian_zerfass @tagomago Understand that with a fixed sales price authors can't even ask for a cent more for a signed copy, despite putting time into it. Customised copies, if they're of the same edition, can't be charged for. You can create special editions for that, but it involves extra effort and cost, too (though that's still the best trick around it, and it has limitations).

@jens @tagomago

Thanks for your perspective. Which comes to very different conclusions indeed.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass Well, speaking as someone who's been a small time publisher a few times, that's wishful thinking.

But it's possible it's different from locality to locality. In Germany, it's pretty easy to get orders directly from points of sale.

@jens @christian_zerfass

>In Germany, it's pretty easy to get orders directly from points of sale.

Of course you can, but that's not what you want to do, unless you're forced to because you don't have proper distribution, that is, a deal with a distribution company that takes care of that section of the supply chain, which is the MO for, I'd say, 95% of the market. If you're in the business you must know the drill.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass If you're a small publisher, a distributor will take as much of your margins as Amazon, give or take, i.e. too much to make a living.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass I mean, we're talking about what a fixed price gives smaller entrants into the market. That's the whole context.

We're talking publishers here with less than a handful of staff. Which means they have to generate a hundred+ thousand/year for salary alone. Small print runs are in the hundreds, usually, rarely the lower thousands. At EUR 15 a pop or so, it's rare for a single book to bring in more than 10k in sales. Also, a print run...

@tagomago @christian_zerfass ... doesn't necessarily sell out in the year it's printed. Maybe.

So you have to look towards 10+ unique books published a year to get even close to breaking even. Which is next to impossible to manage for a team of 2-3.

This has two direct results: a) most small publishing houses are side businesses, because they cannot function otherwise. And b) literally every cent counts.

Distributors that take in the tens of percentage...

@tagomago @christian_zerfass ... points are not even close to making sense.

It changes with sufficient visibility. But with the budgets that are available, serious marketing tends to be nonexistent.

So special offers, bundles, anything that makes a small stand somewhere stand out, they're literally the thing that you could do to break out of that. The only thing. Except Buchpreisbindung makes a bunch of them illegal.

What can help is if you have an author...

@tagomago @christian_zerfass ... who enjoys the limelight. Author's readings have a double benefit, they can generate direct revenue via an entrance fee, and they're a great place for putting a stand up with books. Some places will even pay for holding one, but that's less often the norm than one might expect. There's often no bar in a library where the venue makes the actual money.

But some authors are actively appalled at having to do that kind of thing.

@jens @christian_zerfass

Actually we were talking about the effect of that measure on protecting small bookshops, which are crucial to maintain cultural diversity.

Distributors (and bookshops, which normally get a higher percentage of the cake) also have to pay staff and rent. When books don't sale nobody wins, and that's not within the scope of the fixed price model.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass Well, but small bookshops and small publishers can make deals. They're in the same boat, after all. I've had a bunch of shops just take books for a display on the off chance that an unusual book makes a difference in buying behaviour. No need to argue with them about sales volume. If it sells, it's a win. And if not, you just take the stock back.

@tagomago @christian_zerfass That kind of deal could be a whole lot better than for Amazon ... if only that were legal.

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