Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bookseller talks about the failure of "net pricing" in the physical stores business

Gray Frank, a founder and former owner of Booksmith  in San Francisco, has a major Letter to the Editor in the New York Times on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, “Real and False Discounts”.  He says that books are one of the few mass-produced commodities with prices printed on the product, a fact which enabled Amazon and Jeff Bezos to focus on books two decades ago when forming Amazon as a “discount” online store.

He also describes a furtive effort among booksellers (the American Booksellers Association ) to implement net pricing, to protect the effectiveness of physical stores.

I don’t recall seeing prices printed on many books that I order recently, and they are not printed on my own “Do Ask, Do Tell” series.  Paperbacks seem to have prices a lot of the time.

I can remember a similar concept with phonograph records, and later compact discs, for music.  Back in the early 1960s, a standard list price for an LP record was $4.98 mono and $5.98 stereo, with discounts often been 20-30% in “discount stores”.  Budget labels were $1.98 and $2.98.  In the mid 1980s, classical compact discs often started with a list price of $15.99.  Back around 1962, a friend said, "Bill, why don't you pay $4.98 for a classical record like most people?" I didn't have to.

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