4.3.6: 1830 - 1910 - Forms of trading / payment

The changes that began to occur in the eighteenth century in the trading contacts between publishers and booksellers were finalised in the nineteenth century. The barter trade definitely made way to the commission trade, wherein the book trader returned the unsold goods free of charge to the publisher and the sold goods were charged by the publisher to the bookseller before the end of the year. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it also happened that goods received on commission were exchanged for (own) commission goods, with which (part of) the account was settled. The publishers tried to sell their commission goods not to but through the established booksellers (some names: C.L. Brinkman, Schalekamp, Van de Grampel & Bakker, M.H. Schonekat, G. Portielje, H.J. van Kesteren and J. Noordendorp). These correspondents received a commission of 5% on each copy sold, without running any risk themselves.

For the publishers commission trade was attractive, on the one hand because their editions were offered for sale in far more bookshops, but on the other hand, they ran the risk of commission goods not being returned, returned late, or returned well-thumbed. Since 1834, the Vereeniging ter Bevordering van de Belangen des Boekhandels (Association for the Promotion of the Interests of the Book Trade, now KVB) undertook several attempts to ban those booksellers who did not return their commission goods on time, but all these attempts were in vain. The year 1874 saw the incorporation of the Bestelhuis van den Nederlandschen Boekhandel (distribution office of the Dutch Book Trade), which later became the Centraal Boekhuis (Central Book House) with the purpose of organising the commission trade in a centralised way. One year later, the commission traders of the competing firm of Schalekamp, Van de Grampel & Bakker were also taken over.

In the second half of the nineteenth century buying on credit came into vogue, the buying of titles by the bookseller at his own risk. The publishers lured book traders with discounts to order on credit as much as possible.

Publishers sent subscription lists or prospectuses of works to be published to booksellers in order to get them to order; the publisher often granted a discount on subscriptions. Booksellers were also seduced with 'premiums' to place large orders and there was the rebate; at the end of the nineteenth century this bookseller's discount for ordinary and new editions amounted to 20%. When a dispute evolved in 1861 among the booksellers about the discounts granted to schoolbook sellers, the Vereeniging set a fixed discount of 10% on schoolbooks.

Publishers and booksellers paid their suppliers with bills or in cash, payments at list auctions were in cash. The accounts were made up at the end of the calendar year and usually paid at the beginning of the new year. Publishers and booksellers also met one another at the annual Leipziger Buchmesse to settle accounts and conduct business.

Due to the mechanisation of the book business on the one hand and the growth of the reading public on the other hand, private retail prices decreased enormously in the nineteenth century. If the usual price for a novel at the beginning of the nineteenth century was still around 4 guilders (about € 1.80; a worker earned 6 guilders (€ 2.70) a week on average), many books were sold for less than 2 guilders ( about € 0.90) at the end of the century. The prices of popular editions and literary series illustrate this drop in particular, but other genres became less expensive as well. The abolition of the newspaper stamp in 1869 caused a further drop in price for periodicals. The fixed book price was maintained in this period.

author: Chantal Keijsper

Forms of trading / payment