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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2009 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan 5770

The war against affordable books

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The American Booksellers Association loves people who buy books. It loves them so much that it wants to protect them from wicked retailers who sell popular titles at affordable prices. In fact, it wants to protect them from themselves. Consumers, after all, are likely to rejoice at the chance to pick up a bestseller like Stephen King's Under the Dome or John Grisham's Ford County for just $9, well below their suggested retail price of $35 and $24 respectively. The ABA, a trade group for independent bookstores, is doing all it can to preserve the republic from such pernicious bargains.

In a letter to the US Department of Justice last week, the booksellers association called for an investigation into the "predatory" behavior of Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and Target -- behavior it said "is damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers." That "predatory" behavior -- what the rest of the world would describe as lively competition -- has taken the form of a price war, with the three retail giants offering 10 of the season's most highly anticipated new books for as little as $8.98 each. At that price, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target are actually losing money, since books generally wholesale for about half their list price. But that's not unusual: Merchants often promote a deeply discounted loss leader in order to attract new customers and stimulate additional sales.

To hear the American Booksellers Association tell it, however, the big online retailers are engaged not in spirited competition, but in an underhanded plot to eliminate competition.

Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target, the association claims in its letter to the Justice Department, "are using these predatory pricing practices to attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers." Evidence? The ABA offers none, and the proposition is hardly self-evident. Indeed, three paragraphs after accusing the big retailers of trying to monopolize book sales, the ABA's letter acknowledges that "none of the companies involved are engaged primarily in the sale of books" and that they are offering such good deals on bestsellers "to attract customers to buy other . . . merchandise" (my italics).

Odder and more hyperbolic still is the ABA's assertion that Amazon et al. "are devaluing the very concept of the book" and that "the entire book industry is in danger of becoming collateral damage in this war." That is the sort of thing vendors always say when more efficient or productive competitors challenge them in the marketplace. (A decade ago the ABA said much the same thing about Barnes & Noble and Borders, when it attacked them for selling books at a discount.) As in every other industry, innovation and technology have changed the way books are bought and sold -- and in the wake of change there are always winners and losers.

But if "the very concept of the book" is being shredded by low prices, the message hasn't reached the millions of Americans who buy books. Even amid the recession, well over 3 billion books were sold in the United States in 2008, up from 2.3 billion five years earlier -- and from less than 1 billion in 1988. The rise of discount book chains and online book sellers has certainly altered the industry, but it has only increased the American appetite for books.

"While on the surface it may seem that these lower prices will encourage more reading," says the ABA, "the reality is quite the opposite." Right -- just as lower food prices lead to more hunger and inexpensive computers are causing the internet to fade away. Behind the bookseller association's strained logic and high-flown rhetoric is little more but a self-interested plea for the government to hobble its competitors.

As it wrings its hands at the Amazon/Wal-Mart/Target discounts, the ABA groans that "there is simply no way for ABA members to compete." Really? The big online retailers may have a price advantage, but well-managed independent bookstores have always had other advantages to play up: attentive and knowledgeable service, eye-catching displays, a reader- and author-friendly atmosphere, community involvement, the serendipitous joys of browsing.

The ABA does its members no favors by painting them as helpless victims, undone because Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target are discounting some popular books. The best neighborhood booksellers inspire affection and allegiance from customers that no online superstore can match. Prices are important, but they aren't all-important. And not everyone is looking for the latest Stephen King.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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