Monopoly Power in the Eighteenth Century British Book Trade

Author: Fielding, David; Rogers, Shef

Date: 2014-12

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Working or discussion paper

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University of Otago


In conventional wisdom, the reform of British copyright law during the eighteenth century brought an end to the monopoly on the sale of books held by the Stationers’ Company, and the resulting competition was one of the driving forces behind the expansion of British book production during the Enlightenment. In this paper, we analyze a new dataset on eighteenth century book prices and author payments, showing that the legal reform brought about only a temporary increase in competition. The data suggest that by the end of the century, informal collusion between publishers had replaced the legal monopoly powers in place at the beginning of the century. The monopoly power of retailers is not so easily undermined.

Subjects: book trade, publishing, copyright, retail monopoly

Citation: ["Fielding, D., & Rogers, S. (2014). Monopoly Power in the Eighteenth Century British Book Trade (Economics Discussion Papers Series No. 1410). University of Otago. Retrieved from"]

Copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International