Posts Tagged ‘books’

The future (?) for booksellers

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Remember all the fuss when the Minister (was reported to have) said all the bookshops (except those in the big cities) were going to close? (or something like that).

It would appear that his comments may have arisen from a report by the Book Industry Study Group.

The report is not public yet, but the 138 submissions are and so is the Market Analysis Research Report from PWC (pdf).

There are lots of facts and figures in there. You may even recognise this as a world you live in:

Lengthy delivery times and insufficient availability of eBook titles are seen as impeding the competitiveness of Australia’s booksellers (‘bricks and mortar’ and online).

On the question of insufficient availability:

Options to improve business models for publishers could involve entering into international agreements to share global rights, competing directly for global rights, and controlling costs through centralisation. Experimentation will remain a priority for book publishers.

“Sharing” global rights probably won’t help the availability problem for electronic titles as that seems to be the cause of the problem. As a consumer, don’t I want less “sharing” so that when things become available electronically overseas I can get access to them now?

Interestingly:

The available evidence suggests that overseas online booksellers are generally able to sell books published overseas at prices (including delivery) that are cheaper than those charged by Australian online booksellers. The price competitiveness of Australian booksellers is affected by the GST, the exchange rate, wholesale book prices, and postage costs.

On postage costs:

Our initial analysis suggests that an Australian business posting a book-like parcel to an Australian address would pay approximately 90 per cent more than a British business would to post the same package to the same address.

Well, if you’ve ever bought a book from The Book Depository, you know you don’t pay anything like the $10+ an Australian retailer charges you -$0. So why would you pay $30+ for a new paperback if you can get it for $10 – 15 from The Book Depository or electronically from Kindle/iBook/Nook?

Being old fashioned, I do enjoy wandering into a book store and browsing, but spending an extra $20 for a paperback which I (usually) only read once?

I do also enjoy reading books set in Australia or, more portentously, about the Australian experience. These cost pressures, however, will surely mean that Australian books will have to become cheaper to compete. It will be interesting to see how the Book Industry Study Group tries to solve that conundrum.

Lid dips: @isobelclare and @smh

 

Parallel imports, books and Australia

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The Australian Government has announced today that it will not be changing the limitations in the Copyright Act on the parallel importation of books.

According to the Press Release:

Australian book printing and publishing is under strong competitive pressure from international online booksellers such as Amazon and The Book Depository and the Government has formed the view that that this pressure is likely to intensify.
In addition, the technology of electronic books (e-books) like Kindle Books will continue to improve with further innovations and price reductions expected.
The Government has not accepted the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to remove the parallel importation restrictions on books.

Australian book printing and publishing is under strong competitive pressure from international online booksellers such as Amazon and The Book Depository and the Government has formed the view that that this pressure is likely to intensify.

In addition, the technology of electronic books (e-books) like Kindle Books will continue to improve with further innovations and price reductions expected.

The Government has not accepted the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to remove the parallel importation restrictions on books.

You could write a book on the rules governing parallel importation of books so I won’t attempt to summarise them here.

The Productivity Commission’s report. I still don’t think there has been any answer to the question whether the prices of music CDs or computer software fell after open markets were introduced for those products.

IPRIA, parallel imports

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

IPRIA has organised a seminar in Melbourne on 15 September and Sydney on 16 September to discuss whether freeing parallel imports will make books cheaper.

Speakers include both Prof. Fels, who started it all, and Dr Rhonda Smith.

Details from here.

Has anyone established how far the prices of CDs and computer software fell once the markets for those products became open?

Productivity Commission on parallel imports (books)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The Productivity Commission’s report has been released:

Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books

Key Points

Media Release

On a quick view, now they recommend repeal after a 3 year transition period:

Whereas the Commission’s draft report had proposed a partial liberalisation of the import restrictions, following further evidence, the final report recommends their repeal, with the industry having a period of three years to adjust before the changes take effect. The report recommends that the current range of grants and other financial assistance be refined to better target the local writing and publishing that adds cultural value to Australian society.

The Commission estimates that, while Australian authors and publishers do benefit from the restrictions, overseas authors and publishers benefit by a factor of 1.5 times. In addition to the transfer from consumers to authors/publishers (including those foreigners whom we could easily free ride on), there are also other inefficiencies.

On the question of subsidies:

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the assistance provided by the PIRs [that’s parallel import restrictions] be replaced by subsidies.

It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural externalities.

For the reasons set out in chapter 7, the Commission has not recommended that the
assistance provided by the PIRs be replaced by subsidies.
It has, however, recommended that current subsidies for the local books industry be
reviewed ahead of the abolition of the PIRs, and that the arrangements be reviewed
again five years after their repeal. These reviews will provide an opportunity to
consider the appropriateness of the existing subsidies and whether they might be
improved. Among other things, such reviews could examine the case for changing
some of the current subsidies to more directly assist outputs that generate cultural
externalities.

I wonder, has anyone done a study of how far the price of CDs or computer software fell after they became open markets? Speaking purely ad hoc, and unempirically, it always seems that computer programs, at least, are cheaper “over there”. Don’t have any experience with music.

Lid dip: Peter AP Clarke

Productivity Commission on parallel imports

Friday, March 20th, 2009

The Productivity Commission has released its draft report into the copyright restrictions on parallel importing books:

Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) for books should be modified as follows. 

• PIRs should apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. Thereafter, parallel importation should be freely permitted. 

• If a PIR-protected book becomes unavailable during this 12 month period, then parallel importation should be freely permitted until local supply is re- established, or the expiry of the 12 month period allows for generalised parallel importation.  

• Booksellers should be allowed to overtly offer an aggregation service for individual orders of imported books under the single use provisions. 

All other aspects of the current PIR arrangements should continue unchanged, including the 30 day rule. 

All to be topped up with what appears to be the now mandatory 5 year review to see if it’s working.

I wonder how many books your local bookseller will have to order at once before he or she will start to consider absorbing the cost of freight? Of course, we can always hope that they also find out about addall.com and all those other internet sites rather than using that complicated clunky thing they play with on their computers while you are growing a beard.

Links to the full report here.

Parallel imports and books

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

The Productivity Commission has published its issues paper on its reference relating to the parallel importation of books.  You can download the pdf here.  At present:

(1) anyone may “parallel” import a book for their own use (i.e., not to resell or distribute it);

(2) books first published after 22 December 1991 and not published first simultaneously in Australia may be parallel imported;

(3) for any other books, however, there is a very convoluted regime,

see Copyright Act 1968 s 44A and 112A.

Things have apparently changed since all the earlier studies by the then Prices Surveillance Authority, the ACCC and the Ergas Committee as now they would have us believe:

While requiring the Commission to examine options for reform, the terms of reference should not be taken as meaning that the current restrictions are necessarily inappropriate. That is a matter to be examined in this study.

Nonetheless, the Productivity Commission appears to have started from the former Prices Surveillance Authority’s proposition that the right to control imports is some how additional or extraneous to copyright:

It has been argued that restrictions on the parallel importation of books provide an incentive, additional to that provided by copyright alone, for people to create literary works.

At an impressionistic level, one clear benefit under the current regime has been the faster availability of paper-back editions. My recollection is that the Prices Surveillance Authority found paperbacks were usually not published until at least one year after the publication of the hardback edition in Australia – and often longer.  Walk into any Dymocks, Borders or whatever these days and you will often see 2 or even 3 different versions of the same book – the UK paperback, the US paperback and often the trade or mass market versions as well (the ones that smudge when you press your thumb too hard on the page).

It will be very interesting to see how the Productivity Commission explains its competition theory to support repeal when anyone with an internet connection can jump online and order the book from overseas (for their own use).

The sector most affected by the current regime might be thought to be the booksellers who can’t use this form of arbitrage (at least for books first published simultaneously in Australia – unless they already have a written or verifiable telephone order).  Would we all be better off if the booksellers could use the threat of parallel importing in volume to negotiate a better price from the the local publisher/distributor?

It will also be interesting to see how the Productivity Commission deals with possible cultural considerations, which have proved so powerful in Canada in trying to block parallel imports.  The Productivity Commission raises the possibility, however, that such issues can be better addressed by direct subsidies – so in the interests of market forces operating, the Government would have a more active role in trying to pick ‘winners’ and taxpayers generally would subsidise readers.

Your comments should be submitted to the Productivity Commission by 20 January 2009.