chapter  17
13 Pages

Old Ways and New Directions

The institutional structures which British publishing has developed during the twentieth century have been, to a considerable extent, intended to preserve rather than to change. The Net Book Agreement was, and is, an essentially conservative instrument designed to counteract a specific problem of the late nineteenth century and used to maintain a stable structure in the twentieth. In itself, the Net Book Agreement had little effect on what was published, despite the later argument that it allowed publishers to be more adventurous than they might have been in a wholly unprotected market.1 Indeed, its principal effect, as Macmillan and its other early promoters had intended, was to allow the trade to ‘continue in familiar ways; the suspicion of innovation, and of innovators, was to be a characteristic of the industry throughout the first seven decades of the century.