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Books, Economics of

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Abstract

The market for books is characterized by the laws of demand and supply. However, the availability of a diverse supply of quality books is also an objective of cultural policy. This, combined with market failures, may provide grounds for government intervention as discussed for the arts in general in van der Ploeg (2006). Here we focus mainly on the market for general books, paying special attention to cultural books, leaving aside educational and scientific books. Governments influence book markets through subsidies for libraries, authors and publishers, tax concessions on the sale of books, and laws concerning the pricing of books. Apart from stimulating reading, it is not clear what role there is for government intervention. After all, the book market invents solutions to specific problems (contracts for authors, literary agents, gatekeeping by publishers, joint distribution by wholesalers cooperating on distribution, agreements concerning stocks between retailers and publishers, joint publicity, best-seller lists, reviews, and so on). The book market flourishes in production of book titles, but not in reading.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2008

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