Capitalism unfortunately presents some rather grim dichotomies…for instance: for most of the 20th century Britain had in place what was known as the ‘Net Book Agreement (NBA).’ "It," says John Sutherland in Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction, "effectively forbade on pain of collective trade boycott, the selling of books at less, or more, than the sale price posted on the wares by the publisher…", a single copy purchased at a corner shop in the Isle of Man would cost the same at Hatchard’s in London, regardless of the fact that the latter had ordered a thousand times more copies from the publisher than the former; so there was no unfair incentive to buy at the big corporate store. Lovely, small independent adventurous book shops were protected from bullying cut throat behavior, as were creative, entrepreneurial, adventurous small publishers, since Britain resisted a ‘sale of return’ policy for the retailer…the kind that Amanda Jernigan has recently objected to in an open letter to wigs at Mount Allison University…
The U.K. abandoned the NBA in 1995.
In bestowing on us cheaper books, big box capitalism – appealing to the majority of consumers – does-in diversity and gouges charm and choice from the local landscape.
In Canada, with Stephen Harper in power, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see anything like what the French have instituted. Lauren Elkin explains:
According to a report published in 2007, independent bookstores, which, according to an IPSOS study, make up about 41% of the book retail market, face certain challenges of being in the retail business – high rents, low return on investment, high social fees to be paid for their employees – but, as is oft repeated in France, le livre n’est pas un produit comme des autres. A book is not a commodity like any other. Therefore, the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, introduced a ‘plan livre’ – book plan – at the end of 2007 which aims to help out independent bookstores who fit a certain profile. The label ‘LIR ’ – librairie indépendente de référence – was launched in 2008. In order to qualify, there are a list of requirements, notably: the bookstore must not have access to a centralized warehouse from which their stock is replenished, the stock must contain a majority of books in print for more than one year, and the bookstore’s owner must have total autonomy over the bookstore’s holdings. Once the label has been bestowed, the bookstore becomes eligible for a variety of subsidies from the Centre National du Livre (CNL ) – interest-free loans for development projects, funds with which to acquire stock (up to 500,000 euros per year of the CNL ’s budget have been earmarked for this purpose), reductions on social fees for employees, tax relief, and funding to sponsor readings, festivals, and other activities. (The funding of the CNL increased in 2008 from 1.3 to 2.5 million euros.)
…no. Here we let the free market work its magic.