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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bookseller patsies?

It always cracks me up to see on discussion boards the few sellers who will defend fee increases for booksellers. Some people write to me confused, hurt, dismayed, and just plain bewildered by these posts. The oft-repeated question is: "Why would a bookseller advocate for a policy change that so clearly hurts their bottom line?!" The answer, in many cases, is pretty simple. Truly professional booksellers do not see fee increases as hurting their bottom line, but rather inherently decreasing their competition and thereby helping it.

The theory: Fee increases work as an effective filter against low-level sellers by raising the barrier to entry for the industry. This rationale, I can almost understand if taken out of context. However, taking into account the entire industry and the absolutely booming sales, everyone from serious booksellers to the most basic of hobbyists are running to get a piece of the pie. While I agree that marginal fee increases will limit the entry of some potential sellers, I fail to believe that it dissuades enough potential sellers to make the cost-benefit ratio work in the professionals favor.

Oh, and I pretty much dismiss the use of employees using aliases to defend corporate policies... While there is no doubt that high level decision makers in these corporations are in tune with what is being said by their sellers on the discussion boards (contrary to a popular myth slammed down peoples' throats on the Alibris message boards a year or so ago), I do not think most of the professionals I know would participate in this type of behavior.
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