Die soziale Marktwirtschaft rettet den Buchhandel

„The bookstore wars are over. Independents are battered, Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble weakened but still standing and Amazon triumphant.“ – The Amazon Effect, The Nation

Während in den USA der Buchhandel so beschrieben wird, sind Thalia und private Büchereien in Deutschland noch bekannte Gesichter. Retter des deutschen Buchhandels ist die soziale Marktwirtschaft und im Speziellen das Buchpreisbindungsgesetz. So argumentiert Michael Naumann, dessen Lebenslauf vom ersten deutschen Kulturstaatsminister über den CEO von Henry Holt zur Chefredaktion des „Cicero“ führt:

At the time, [Barnes & Noble] had not yet been seriously undermined by Amazon, yet both companies were already deeply entrenched in a war over a sales strategy based on an economy of discounting—selling bestsellers at a loss in order to attract customers. Discounting has upended traditional publishing in the United States. Independent bookstores usually operate on a shoestring and have never been able to afford negative profit margins on bestsellers. […] By discounting these books, the big chains and Amazon did to the independents what Walmart has done to mom-and-pop Main Street retailers: crush them by running a race to the bottom.

As mentioned earlier, in 2002 this fixed-price agreement became federal law [in Germany]. Stressing the cultural relevance of the book industry, the law grants publishers the right to set a price on all new books, hardcover or paperback. After eighteen months, the publishers may lift the fixed price, announcing the change in trade publications.

Because of fixed-price, Amazon faced a tough business environment when it opened in Germany fifteen years ago. And conquer Amazon has not, unless you consider a total market share of 13.8 percent for Internet sales—which also includes the sales of smaller Internet competitors like Thalia—to be a resounding victory.

Reading List: „How Germany Keeps Amazon at Bay and Literary Culture Alive„, Michael Naumann.

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