The real danger posed by cut-price wizardry

Anyone who wants to know what the downside for the media will be
after the Office of Fair Trade said that it was prepared to liberalise
the distribution chain should look at what happened to traditional
bookshops when JK Rowling’s new Harry Potter book hit the shelves.

The
expected bonanza for specialist bookshops was muted by massive price
cuts on Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince by the big retailers,
taking the price to as low as £4.99.

With a wave of their wands,
the big supermarkets were happy to take a loss on the book if it meant
more punters coming into their stores and stocking up on a few
groceries while they were at it.

Yet it is the specialist shops that stock and sell a wide range of books all the year round.

If
the OFT guidance on magazine distribution is followed, the supermarkets
will be left with huge power over which magazines are stocked.

It
will mean they can cherry-pick the Harry Potters of the magazine world,
and flog them at cheap rates if necessary to attract greater
‘footfall  of shoppers.

It doesn’t take a boy wizard to
realise the threat this poses to specialist newsagents and hundreds of
niche titles that won’t find space on the supermarket shelves.

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