Laissez Faire Books, RIP

It’s not yet mentioned on their website, but an e-mail over the weekend announced that libertarian bookseller Laissez Faire Books is closing down. As they explain it:

The book market has changed tremendously over the past 30+ years, and it has gotten harder and harder for a small niche bookseller to cover expenses. I suppose the market has spoken.

And those who advocate the market must accept its verdict. But I am sorry to see Laissez Faire books go. In my twenties (and maybe earlier, I can’t remember now) I was an enthusiastic Laissez Faire customer. I wasn’t ideologically (or perhaps nearly as importantly, temperamentally) inclined to sign up to all their enthusiasms, especially for Ayn Rand, but better Friedman, Hayek, Sowell et al. than the swooning over the state of much of the Australian intelligentsia.

Though I am sorry to see Laissez Faire close, I am one of the reasons they are going. Even when a Laissez Faire email alerted me to a new book I wanted, I would usually end up buying it from Amazon. Once, Laissez Faire was the only place I could locate many libertarian books, but Amazon caters to just about every niche market. After taking into account the cheaper postage when buying several books at once, Amazon was usually the less expensive option too.

So Laissez Faire have been caught up in the creative destruction of their ideology. Amazon does a great job of making libertarian books accessible, but it is has helped wipe out a specialist libertarian bookseller in the process.

13 thoughts on “Laissez Faire Books, RIP

  1. I just ordered Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and Friedman’s ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ from Amazon. (Along with ‘Crimes Against Logic‘).

    Gotta wait for them to arrive now. Had I known about this other store I might have ordered them from there. Sometimes I like to buy from small businesses just to help them out. I do the same with my local Fruito, even though now Coles and Woolies have better quality fruit, cheaper.

    For some reason Coles’ sausages just dont match a butcher’s snags though. So I guess there’lll always be small butchers.

    BTW, Cristopher Hitchens has a new book on Atheism coming soon for those interested. Its not written by him, but a collection of writings from various sourses, edited by Hitchens. Sources such as Thomas Jefferson, et al.


  2. Browsing through bookstores and libraries is one of the activities that I most enjoy. The main problem with online bookstores, big or small, is that browsing online is simply not as pleasurable as browsing in an actual bookstore or library.


  3. Were it not for free riders like you, Damien, Laissez Faire Books might still be in business. Clearly then, they warrant a subsidy!


  4. “The main problem with online bookstores, big or small, is that browsing online is simply not as pleasurable as browsing in an actual bookstore or library.”

    I agree, and on my one visit to Laissez Faire’s premises, in 1992 as part of attending the US Liberty and Society, I bought more than I would have bought from their catalogue.

    Though I do find Amazon’s recommendations to be useful, and a partial substitute for browsing.


  5. LFB was pretty price competitive because of the bulk deals they did with publishers and they offered to beat Amazon prices. But I suspect many of their customers are like you and find it more convenient to bundle these titles with other purchases from the large online retailers.

    The current owners were less than innovative in marketing and other aspects of the business and so I suspect this is as much a failure of entrepreneurship as structural change in the industry.


  6. Tom N. that’s only half the story, free riders like Damien should be taxed!

    The ‘seach inside’ function at Amazon is very good, and I have increased my book purchases there as a consequence.


  7. I am VERY Sorry to hear this. They sold a lot of important books over the years. I loved getting their catalog in the mail.

    BTW: A lot of booksellers (myself included) use online browsing. It seems most people do like to glance at the first few pages before they decide.

    A sad day indeed.



  8. It’s official, Laissez Faire Books will not be closing. The International Society for Individual Liberty will be taking over this long-running source for libertarian oriented books. While there will be some period of transition the new Laissez Faire will have a new catalogue available in PDF format by the end of the week. Anyone who wishes to receive the pdf catalogues in the future can do so by emailing ISIL released the following statement:

    The International Society for Individual Liberty is pleased to be the new sponsors of Laissez Faire Books. For three decades LFB has been a prime source for libertarian educational material. And we intended to continue, and expand, that tradition.
    Your purchase from LFB does more than you may realize. Proceeds from sales allow us to sponsor new books that would never see the light of day otherwise through our Cobden Press publishing arm. In addition, we will sponsor books for libraries, schools, students and non-profit organizations around the world. And you can donate to such causes through ISIL which is a registered non-profit educational organization.
    The acquisition of LFB was unexpected so we are still getting a grasp on things. There will be a period of transition. But we will deal with your orders as quickly and efficiently as possible. It may take some time to have the new web site fully functional. But you will receive a regular newsletter from us in PDF format that you should be able to open and enjoy.


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