Saturday 10 January 2009

“We’ve got to get together, sooner or later, because the revolution’s here – and you know it’s right…” (Thunderclap Newman)

I have read John Calder’s blog post with interest, especially the second part, where he talks about the Net Book Agreement. Wikipedia’s article will fill you in if you don’t know what the NBA means or what side effects its abolishment in March 1997 caused.

I have in touch with the lawyer who tried to defend the NBA back in 1997 at the European Courts, and a few months ago he told me that, in practice, it would be impossible to reinstate it, because it’s against the current economic thinking and against free-competition laws. But since many economic rules and concepts are now being rewritten, I think it might be worth campaigning again for the revival of the agreement.

It is clear that since its abolishment big conglomerate publishers, as well as book chains and supermarkets, have benefited enormously, while small independent bookstores and publishers have almost been wiped out, with obvious knock-on effects on the quality of what is being published today.

John phoned me yesterday, after reading the letter sent to the Bookseller by News from Nowhere, and said that we should try and get together a petition, or at least collect a few signatures from across the industry, and try to revive, if not the agreement, at least a discussion about it. The future of publishing as we know it – or perhaps as we knew it – is at stake.

I will soon have launch with Clive Bradley, the NBA lawyer (and ex-chief of the Publishers’ Association), who I am sure knows all the technicalities and intricacies of the matter, and I’ll get in touch with all my publishing contacts, but if there’s anybody out there who’s reading this and is for the NBA, I’d be grateful if they could write to me or give me a call. The more we are, the stronger we can make our point.



  1. Do you know Eoin Purcell's blog, Alex? He is a publisher who has been blogging for several years now and who may well in be interested in a discussion on the net book agreement. I was working for a book printers when the decision was made, and was afraid it was the end of the world. It has probably squeezed the literary end of the market (yet again), but in getting volume through the shops again, it has its uses. I imagine it would be hard to reinstate something that raises prices and works against the mass market, but it would be good to think that publishers felt able to take more chances with unusual and literary books.

    I don't have Eoin Purcell's URL to hand, but he's in my blogroll. I do feel you two should meet, if you haven't already.

  2. Thanks a lot – I'll look him up and hopefully can get in touch with him. Best. AG


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