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Should the “Agency Model” be Applied to Print Books in the United States?

Some believe the “agency model” is little more than fixed book pricing in disguise.

By Edward Nawotka

american flag

Unlike several countries in Europe — as discussed in today’s feature story — the United States does not have fixed book prices. US publishers offer a recommended sales prices, which is printed on the book, but the price is not fixed by law and can be adjusted at the retail level. This often leads to steep discounts on bestsellers or in the case of many online retailers, on all titles. Paradoxically, it was the United States that the “agency model” for e-books was developed and first implemented. This enables publishers to fix the price at which an e-book can be sold, with a cut going to the retailer as “agent” for the sale. Some have argued that it is merely an alternate form of fixed book pricing.

The system was put into place in large part because publishers felt the low prices being offered by Amazon.com and other e-retailers were too low to be sustainable and would force compromises in the long term. Could — indeed, should — the “agency model” be applied across the board to print books as well? What would be the upside? The downside?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted April 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Interesting thought.

    But I feel the physical book market would go into an even deeper decline. Wal-Mart, Target, Costco. Sams Club etc. would all stop carrying books if they could not discount. These retailers sell a lot of copies that would not be replaced by Independent book stores.

    Plus publishers are greedy. If they controlled the price, they would over-charge for titles and if the price was fixed, it would drive down sales.

    It is difficult enough to sell physical books in this market, giving publishers control over the price would hasten the end of print.

  2. Posted April 2, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    The flexibility of adjusting the prices lets the book be sold at market value. In other words, if it is not selling then the price can be dropped to stimulate sales. If it’s fixed then it’s stuck. That’s just one of the downfalls. To tell you honestly, I don’t buy a hardback until they drop the price anyway. There is no author worth $27.00, no matter how many pages they wrote.

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