Friday, October 26, 2007

Post-Gazette writer Mark Roth pointed me to this story about German booksellers, who are fearful now that the Swiss government has eliminated a rule, which Germany shares, that prohibited on books. This has allowed small and independent book stores in Germany to survive, while their counterparts in America and England have fallen to the big chains.

Competition from the Swiss, however, may force Germany to follow suit:

Meanwhile, opinion is divided about what the Swiss decision will mean in Germany. Michael Naumann, a longtime publisher and editor, now running for mayor of Hamburg, as Germany’s culture minister some years back won a battle with the European Union to protect Germany’s fixed-price system. He’s not too worried, he said.

“The fixed book price has worked for more than a century and has provided us with the most competitive book industry, something the market ideologues don’t quite understand,” he said.

But Elisabeth Ruge sounds fearful. She runs Berlin Verlag, the German publisher of
Richard Ford and of the English-language edition of the most recent “Harry Potter,” which has sold more than one million copies here. It’s not just the Swiss market, she said, but especially the growth of the German chain stores that troubles her.

“Small literary bookshops here sell our books and other literary books,” she explained. “The chain stores don’t even see our sales reps anymore.” Her representatives visit 2,600 independent bookshops in Germany, three times every year.

I don't know what bookstores are like in Germany or the rest of Europe. But as I've said before, I believe the value of independent bookstores is overstated.

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