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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Prescription Drugs and Books

We all know by now that prescription drugs are much cheaper abroad than they are in the United States. But books? A recent article in the Boston Herald, bemoaning textbook costs, also discusses the price setting by publishers based on country (for example, Amazon.com vs Amazon.uk). Keep in mind that this is a commentary (written by a higher education professional), not a news article. However, if reporters begin taking on this story, it may create the same stir as the drug stories have done in the past year or so. These stories pop-up at the beginning of every semester, but especially so in the Fall. When we see a sustained movement, it will be time to seriously consider the consequences of these arguments. Nevertheless, we shall do a cursory tiptoe around some of the issues. The consequences of a strong movement in the spirit of this article, could be both bad and good for online booksellers. One the one hand, high list prices hurt the book industry in general and increase calls for exclusively ebook courses. High list prices, though, give students added incentive to find used books online. It also gives new (online) booksellers more room to squeeze below bookstore prices and yields stronger per unit revenue on all fronts.