The Economics of Books

59 Pages Posted: 27 May 2005

See all articles by M. F. M. Canoy

M. F. M. Canoy

University of tilburg

Rick van der Ploeg

University of Oxford

Jan C. van Ours

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

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 analyzed and insights from the theory of industrial organization 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 harmonize 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: D40, D60, L10, L40, Z11

Suggested Citation

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

Marcel F. M. Canoy

University of tilburg ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5000 LE


Frederick Van der Ploeg

University of Oxford ( email )

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

Jan C. Van Ours (Contact Author)

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

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