The future (?) for booksellers

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?


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


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