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Book Publishing in Europe, Vol. 11 - 2004, No. 4

Free of Fixed Prices on Books - Patterns of Book Pricing in Europe

, pages: 49-64

For more than thirty years a debate has raged within Europe: should book prices be fixed or free? Fixed prices are often also called Retail Price Maintenance (RPM) and mean the publisher fixes the price of a book; bookshops and other retailers are not allowed to sell it at any other price. Free prices mean bookshops and other retailers may sell the book at whatever price they choose. The background to this fierce debate is that, in general, the European Union (EU) favours free competition and its member states have in place a competition law that aims at encouraging free prices on all goods, discouraging/disallowing price cartels. In many countries, mainly on the basis of cultural arguments, the book trade has been granted an exemption from this principle of free competition. The aim of this paper is to describe the present situation, especially in the EU countries, and to discover some of the facts surrounding and consequences of different pricing models in the book trade.

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