The Economics of Books

61 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2005

See all articles by Rick van der Ploeg

Rick van der Ploeg

University of Oxford

Jan C. van Ours

Tilburg University - Department of Economics; University of Melbourne - Department of Economics

M. F. M. Canoy

University of tilburg

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2005


The tensions between books and book markets as expressions of culture and books as products in profit-making businesses are analysed and insights from the theory of industrial organisation are given. Governments intervene in the market for books through laws concerning prices of books, grants for authors and publishers, a lower value-added tax, public libraries and education in order to stimulate the diversity of books on offer, increase the density of retail outlets and to promote reading. An overview of the different ways by which countries differ in terms of market structures and government policies is given. Particular attention is paid to retail price maintenance. Due to differences between European countries it is not a good idea to harmonise European book policies. Our analysis suggests that the book market seems quite able to invent solutions to specific problems of the book trade and that, apart from promoting reading, there is little need for government intervention.

Keywords: books, publishers, authors, diversity, monopolistic competition, retail price maintenance, subsidies, libraries, internet

JEL Classification: Z11, D4, D6, L1, L4

Suggested Citation

van der Ploeg, Frederick and van Ours, Jan C. and Canoy, Marcel F. M., The Economics of Books (February 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Frederick Van der Ploeg (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Manor Road Building
Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3BJ
United Kingdom

Jan C. Van Ours

Tilburg University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
+31 13 466 2880 (Phone)
+31 13 466 3042 (Fax)

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

Melbourne, 3010

Marcel F. M. Canoy

University of tilburg ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5000 LE


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics