Emily Pullen at Skylight Books blog:
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What kind of soulless person would think that cheaper isn't better? According to Merriam Webster, the verb to cheapen
also means "to lower in general esteem; to make tawdry, vulgar, or
inferior in some moral sense." And frankly, that's something that I'd
rather not do to our concept of reading and its influence in our lives.
I'm amazed that publishers don't seem more outraged about this. As
luxuries go (and reading is usually a luxury), you can't get much more
economical than a book. Let's say you read one page per minute for 30
minutes every day. At that rate, it would take you 10 days to read a
300 page book, or 5 total hours. Where can you get 5 hours of
entertainment or education for less than $15, let alone 10 DAYS of
entertainment or education for about $25?
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It seems to us that independent booksellers are not in the
same business as Amazon.com and the chain stores. They are in a much broader business – it’s the business of building community. Successful
independent bookstores use their love and knowledge of books to build community
just like a contractor uses bricks and wood to build a house. You can buy a book anywhere but you can’t buy community. Community
doesn’t enjoy every day low prices at WalMart nor does it show up in a box
delivered by UPS.
Atlantic Monthly offers a roundup:
Publishers should then use this turn of events to start putting their money where it matters: the emerging writers.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has limited its online customers to two copies each of certain bargain books. Amazon.com Inc. has a three-copy maximum on certain discounted titles and Target Corp. has a five-copy limit online.
The Literary Saloon has some excerpts from a subscriber online WSJ article about how price wars are banned in Europe (sounds like a wise position):
In much of Europe, the discount-pricing battle that has erupted among Wal-Mart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Target Corp. could never happen because most major publishing markets, with the exception of the U.K., are bolstered by laws requiring all bookstores, online retailers included, to sell books at prices set in stone by their publishers.
UPDATE: The New Yorker wades into the fray:
"The best way to win a price war, then, is not to play in the first
place. Instead, you can compete in other areas: customer service or
quality. Or you can collude with your putative competitors: that’s why
cartels like OPEC exist. Or—since overt
collusion is usually illegal—you can employ subtler tactics (which
economists call “signalling”), like making public statements about the
importance of “stable pricing.” The idea is to let your competitors
know that you’re not eager to slash prices—but that, if a price war
does start, you’ll fight to the bitter end. One way to establish that
peace-preserving threat of mutual assured destruction is to commit
yourself beforehand, which helps explain why so many retailers promise
to match any competitor’s advertised price. Consumers view these
guarantees as conducive to lower prices. But in fact offering a
price-matching guarantee should make it less likely that competitors
will slash prices, since they know that any cuts they make will
immediately be matched. It’s the retail version of the doomsday machine."