Books, Economics of

Reference work entry


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, W. and Curwen, P. 1991. Competition and Choice in the Publishing Industry. London: Institute of Economic Affairs.Google Scholar
  2. Appelman, M.D. and van den Broek, A. 2002. Boek en Markt. Effectiviteit en Efficientië van de Vaste Boekenprijs. The Hague: SCP/CPB.Google Scholar
  3. Appelman, M.D. and Canoy, M.F.M. 2002. Horses for courses: why Europe should not harmonise its book policies. De Economist 150, 583–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barro, R.J. and Lee, J.-W. 2000. International data on educational attainment: updates and implications. CID Working Paper No. 42. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, J. 2003. Monopoly vs. Oligopoly in the Debate on Retail Price Maintenance for Books: A Preliminary Empirical Result Berlin: Diplomarbeit, Humboldt University.Google Scholar
  6. Beck, J. 2004. Fixed, focal or fair? Book prices under optional retail price maintenance, SP II 2004–15. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum.Google Scholar
  7. Bertarelli, S. and Censolo, R. 2000. Preference for novelty and price behaviour. Working Paper, University of Bologna.Google Scholar
  8. Bittlingmayer, G. 1992. The elasticity of the demand for books, resale price maintenance and the Lerner index. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 148, 588–606.Google Scholar
  9. Canoy, M., van Ours, J. and van der Ploeg, F. 2006. The economics of books. In The Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, ed. D. Ginsburgh and D. Throsby. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  10. Caves, R. 2000. Creative Industries, Contracts between Art and Commerce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Choi, S.-Y.C, Stahl, D.O. and Whinston, A.B. 1998. Gutenberg and the digital revolution: will printed books disappear? Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce, January. Online. Available at http://www.arraydev.comz/commerce/jibc/980l–4.htm, accessed 26 May 2007.Google Scholar
  12. Clerides, S.K. 2002. Book value: intertemporal pricing and quality discrimination in the US market for books. International Journal of Industrial Organization 20, 1385–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coser, L.A., Kadushin, C. and Powell, W.W. 1982. Books: The Culture and Commerce of Publishing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cowen, T. 1998. In Praise of Commercial Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Creemers, M. 1999. In de electronische boekhandel is informatie belangrijker dan prijs. Holland Management Review 66, 58–63.Google Scholar
  16. Cummings, M.C., Jr. and Katz, R.S. 1987. The Patron State. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Deneckere, R., Marvel, H.P. and Peck, J. 1997. Demand uncertainty and price maintenance: markdowns as destructive competition. American Economic Review 87, 619–41.Google Scholar
  18. Dixit, A. and Stiglitz, J.E. 1997. Monopolistic Competition and optimal product diversity. American Economic Review 67, 297–308.Google Scholar
  19. Ecalle, F. 1988. Une évolution de la loi relative du 10 août au prix de livre. Economie et prévision 5/88, Paris.Google Scholar
  20. Economisch Instituut voor het Midden- en Kleinbedrijf. 2001. De Vaste Boekenprijs: Een Internationale ‘Quick Scan. Zoetermeer: EIM.Google Scholar
  21. Epstein, J. 2001. Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  22. European Commission. 2002. Commission accepts undertaking in competition proceedings regarding German book price fixing, Press release IP/02/461. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  23. European Commission. 2004. Book publishing. Publishing Market Watch. Sectoral Report 2. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  24. Eurostat. 2001. Eurostat Yearbook 2002. Luxemburg: European Commission.Google Scholar
  25. Eurostat. 2002. Statistics in Focus, theme 4–24. Luxemburg: European Commission.Google Scholar
  26. Eurostat. 2004. How Europeans Spend their TimeEveryday Life of Women and Men. Luxemburg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  27. Fishwick, F. 1989. Les implications économiques du Net Book Agreement. Cahiers de l’Economie du Livre 2, 4–31.Google Scholar
  28. Fishwick, F. and Fitzsimons, S. 1998. Report into the Effects of the Abandonment of the Net Book Agreement. Cranfield: Cranfield School of Management.Google Scholar
  29. Foster, J.E. and Horowitz, A.W. 1996. Complimentarily yours: free examination copies and textbook prices. International Journal of Industrial Organization 14, 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Goolsbee, A. and Chevalier, J. 2002. Measuring prices and competition online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Working Paper No. 9085. Cambridge, MA: NBER.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grauwe, P. de. and Gielens, G. 1993. De prijs van het boek en de leescultuur. CES Working Paper No 12, University of Leuven.Google Scholar
  32. Greco, A.N. 1999. The impact of horizontal mergers and acquisitions on corporate concentration in the U.S. book publishing industry: 1989–1994. Journal of Media Economics 12, 165–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greco, A.N. 2000. Market concentration levels in the U.S. consumer book industry: 1995–1996. Journal of Cultural Economics 24, 321–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hjorth-Andersen, Chr. 2000. A model of the Danish book market. Journal of Cultural Economics 24, 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Holahan, W.L. 1979. A theoretical analysis of resale price maintenance. Journal of Economic Theory 21, 411–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klein, D.C. 2000. Web strategies for professional publishers: developing an information services portal. Learned Publishing 13, 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Landes, W.M. and Posner, R.A. 1989. An economic analysis of copyright law. Journal of Legal Studies 18, 325–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Latcovich, S. and Smith, H. 2001. Pricing, sunk costs, and market structure online: evidence from book retailing. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 17, 217–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marvel, H.P. and McCafferty, S. 1984. Resale price maintenance and quality certification. RAND Journal of Economics 15, 346–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mathewson, F. and Winter, R. 1998. The law and economics of resale price maintenance. Review of Industrial Organisation 13, 57–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Hagan, J.W. 1998. The State and the Arts: An Analysis of Key Economic Policy Issues in Europe and the United States. North Hampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  42. Ornstein, S.I. 1985. Retail price maintenance and cartels. Antitrust Bulletin 30, 401–32.Google Scholar
  43. Ottavanio, G.I.P. and Thisse, J.F. 1999. Monopolistic competition, multiproduct firms and optimum product diversity. Discussion Paper No. 9919. Louvain: CORE.Google Scholar
  44. Ours, J.C. van. 1990. De Nederlandse boekenmarkt tussen stabiliteit en verandering. Massacommunicatie 18, 22–35.Google Scholar
  45. Plant, A. 1934. The economic aspects of copyright in books. Economica 1, 167–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. van der Ploeg, F. 2004. Beyond the dogma of the fixed book price agreement. Journal of Cultural Economics 28, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. van der Ploeg, F. 2006. The making of cultural policy: a European perspective. In The Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, ed. D. Ginsburgh and D. Throsby. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  48. Ringstad, V. 2004. On the cultural blessings of fixed book prices: fact or fiction. International Journal of Cultural Policy 10, 351–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rosen, S. 1981. The economics of superstars. American Economic Review 71, 848–58.Google Scholar
  50. Rürup, B., Klopfleisch, R. and Stumpp, H. 1997. Ökomomische Analyse der Buchpreisbindung. Frankfurt: Hessischer Verleger- und Buchhändler-Verband, Büchhändler-Vereinigung.Google Scholar
  51. Sutton, J. 2000. Marshall’s Tendencies. What can Economists Know? Cambridge, MA: Leuven University Press and MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Szenberg, M. and Youngkoo Lee, E. 1994. The structure of the American book publishing industry. Journal of Cultural Economics 18, 313–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Throsby, D.C. 2001. Economics and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Tietzel, M. 1995. Literaturökonomik. Tübingen: Mohr.Google Scholar
  55. Tirole, J. 1998. The Theory of Industrial Organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Tullock, G. 1980. Efficient rent seeking. In Towards a Theory of the Rent-Seeking Society, ed. J.M. Buchanan, R.D. Tollison and G. Tullock. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Press.Google Scholar
  57. Uitermark, P.J. 1986. Verticale prijsbinding van boeken; concurrentie en cultuur: een aanzet tot analyse. In De Vaste Boekenprijs: Pro’s en Contrats. Leiden: Instituut voor Onderzoek van Overheidsuitgaven.Google Scholar
  58. Whyte, J.L. 1994. Breaking the bookshop cartel. Long Range Planning 27, 75–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yetkiner, I.H. and Horvth, C. 2000. Macroeconomic Implications of Virtual Shopping: A Theoretical Approach. Groningen: University of Groningen Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations