This Publishers Weekly piece seems to me to be stuffed full of tiny inaccuracies. Is it really true that “Currently, publishers are required to print a pricing bar code, or five-digit add-on, next to the ISBN bar code on book covers and jackets.” The article does go on to clarify that this is really done so that Barnes & Noble and other large retailers can easily check-in stock, but “required”? I don’t think so. B&N stocks plenty of books without prices printed on their cover or jacket — they will sticker them, as many retailers do anyway. The cost of stickering is, however, often billed-back to the publisher.

Steve Bercu of ABA implies that flexibility of pricing would enable booksellers to price to local conditions. But it’s not as if they can’t do this today. I grant that it would be a brave bookseller who charged $2 more for a book than his competition — but the reason they don’t do this has nothing to do with law/requirements/necessity — the decision would be exactly the same whether the book had a price on it or not; just less obvious. Today most university press books don’t have prices printed on them, and surprise, surprise booksellers are able to figure out the price they should be asking. Given that one of our concerns nowadays is people searching on their smart phones for the lowest available price, marking you books up doesn’t seem like a really good strategy.

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