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Don’t Put Tariffs on Books

19 June 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

In early May, the Trump administration proposed placing 25% tariffs on a range of products, including books, imported from China. We believe that the tariffs on books are not in the public interest of the United States. They will drive up the prices of all books and have unintended consequences adversely impacting millions of children, parents, public and school libraries, and the livelihoods of book retailers.

. . . .

Though books imported from China include various book categories, a large percentage were illustrated books for children between the ages of one and 14. Research published in Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education shows that within the first year of life, “children will begin to imitate sounds, recognize familiar voices, and engage in shared communication with their first books… the roots of early literacy”—making it critical to get books in front of the very young.

In 2017 there were more than 61 million children between the ages of one and 14, many of whose illustrated books come from public and school libraries or are purchased by families from retailers. Both libraries and bookstores face financial challenges.

In 2017, there were 16,862 public libraries in the U.S. These are pivotal institutions in the communities that they serve, and yet they tend to be underfunded. New York City’s public libraries are an example of the impact of underfunding. The City, a nonprofit news organization in New York, reported that there are 220 public library branches in the city with, in total, an estimated $896 million in unfunded repairs, which include “everything from leaky roofs to defective air conditioning units and boilers to decrepit bathrooms.” Children also obtain illustrated books from the nation’s underfunded 66,768 elementary school (pre-K through eighth grade) libraries.

Bricks-and-mortar book retailers are another source of books, but they too face economic pressures, including higher rents and wages, that would, in all likelihood, force them to pass along to consumers whatever price increase publishers make to account for the cost of tariffs. Though there is one national bookstore chain, the vast majority of bookstores are small, privately owned enterprises. Although independent booksellers have experienced a revival, there are still fewer bookstores today than there were in the past. In 1995, there were 28,510 U.S. bookstores, which together generated an annual $11.2 billion, according to the Library and Book Trade Almanac. The almanac reported that by 2017, the number of bookstores had declined to 11,432, with sales down almost 10%, to $10.11 billion.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Big Publishing, Libraries

12 Comments to “Don’t Put Tariffs on Books”

  1. Translation: We’re going to lose money using Chinese printers who undercut American printers.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Actually, Chinese printers undercut Canadian printers who long ago undercut American printers. American printers gave up on the low and medium end circa 1980.

    • I love the way they go straight for the “Think of the Children!!” angle.

    • YES! My first thought is: Dude! There are TONS of used books – check out any Goodwill store or garage sale. Lobbying groups need to stop pressuring legislators/politicians to make exemptions for THEIR group. Laws and regulations need to apply to ALL.

  2. A 25% tariff on books printed in China would be a disaster for the publishing industry.

  3. Terrence OBrien

    Tariffs are paid by the US importer on the value of the imported goods. I don’t know how the price to an importer is determined for a book.

    If the Chinese service is just the printing, what do they charge to print a book? Last I read, a hardback was appx $2. If so, the tariff is fifty cents.

    But, I confess. I don’t know what it costs to print 10,000 books, and don’t know how that is priced for the importer. But I seriously doubt the tariff will be based on the average retail price of $20.01 paid by the children here.

  4. But I thought books are priceless and exist outside the world of filthy lucre?

  5. Notice that not once did the OP mention how tariffs might harm authors, the producers of the written word. Isn’t it strange how authors are always left out of the financial side of publishing, as if their contributions were unimportant?

    • If sales of printed books decline because of a tariff, we can make a good case that the substitution effect will lead to an increase in sales of eBooks. That would benefit the thousands of producers of the written word who deal only in the digital market.

      God Bless the free market, for unimportant eBook authors don’t need no stinking tariffs.

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