Today I googled the price of movie tickets and found a site suggesting the average movie ticket price in the USA is less than $8. Last time I went to the movies here in Australia I paid $17.
But I have never heard anyone say: “It’s unfair movie tickets are so cheap in the US. Filmmakers must reduce the prices so we can see movies cheaper here in Australia.” No one says “actors must get paid less so my movie ticket can be cheaper.” And Hoyts et al are not setting up an organisation called “The Coalition for Cheaper Film Tickets.”
So, why all the fuss about book prices?
For years, consumers have add access to foreign editions, purchased freely over the internet from anywhere in the world. No one is stopping them doing this. So, it wasn’t Amazon-fans who started pushing for the scrapping of PIRs. No, the push has come from the members of the so-called ‘Coalition for Cheaper Books’. This organisation, which sounds like some sort of benevolent society for booklovers actually has a surprising membership list: Dymocks, Coles, Kmart, Target, Big W and Woolworths.
Aware that perhaps some of the money they’d like to see boosting their own profits could be being spent elsewhere has alarmed them to the point of pushing for the scrapping of restrictions which protect our local book industry.
But they haven’t stopped there. Instead of justifying their push through hard evidence, they have instead used tactics such as emailing booklovers and asking them ‘do you want cheaper books? If so sign this petition’. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so underhand. They did not explain to booklovers that they were trying to reduce their access to buying Australian produced books. They didn’t explain to booklovers that they were eager to increase their own profit margin. And they certainly didn’t explain to booklovers that lower book prices were not guaranteed – that there is, in fact, no evidence that cheaper book prices will result from the proposed changes.
And, as if hoodwinking consumers into signing a dodgy petition isn’t enough, they have then stirred the pot by suggesting that the people who oppose the changes are greedy authors who want (gasp) to protect their incomes. They, the ‘Coalition for Cheaper Books’, want to not just protect their revenue – but to increase it. Yet they have the temerity to suggest that authors have no right to try to protect their income.
And let’s get this clear – NO Australian author makes anywhere near the income of the executives at Coles, Woolworths et al. And, when you buy a book, any book, it is not the author who makes big bucks. If you buy a book in a bookstore, the author receives a maximum of 10% of the takings (more often it is less). If you buy a book with a RRP of $25, the author receives, $2.50 (or less).
Some booksellers demand 50% of the cover price of books from publishers. Woolworths and Coles demand up to 70% of publishers’ cover price on books. So who is making big bucks here?
But there’s more – Dymocks, the only bookseller in the ‘Coalition’, doesn’t stop at 50%. Prices in Dymocks are regularly above the Retail Recommended Price. So, instead of the book selling for $25, Dymocks sell it for $27 – and Dymock’s cut increases to $14.50. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only bookseller selling above the Retail Rec Price.
If you decide to instead buy the same book at Target or Kmart you might find the book cheaper than RRP. So, instead of $25 you might pay $22. Great – you’ve saved money. But guess what? These chains can afford to do that because they demand that the publisher provide them with high discount copies of the book.
Instead of paying the publisher 50% of cover price (from which the author’s $2.50 comes), they expect discounts of 70%, so they pay the publisher just 30%. The publisher gets less money and – guess who takes the hit? Yep – the author. The 10% reduces to more like 5%. And the consumer thinks good old Kmart/Target is giving them a bargain. Yes, they are – but not at their own expense.
If PIRs are scrapped, the author’s cut will decrease. That 10% or 5% could become 1% or – in the case of remaindered stock, 0%. That’s right, nada, zilch. But the retailers cut will increase. And all this with no guarantee of cheaper prices for consumers. Booksellers (and chain stores) are not obliged to pass on savings to their customers. When PIRs were scrapped in NZ, book prices did not fall for book buyers.
I’ve been horrified during this debate to hear Australian authors tagged as ‘greedy’. Yes, one of the issues IS protecting author’s incomes (which are not high, in spite of common misconceptions). It is not the only issue. It is not even the biggest issue. But why are authors ‘greedy’ when the members of the Coalition are the ones trying to bolster their profits?
WHY are so many Australians prepared to believe that a group of big businesses wants to reduce prices on ANYTHING? Remember, some of the members of this coalition are also the same business which control grocery and fuel prices in this country. Have you noticed grocery prices going down lately?
So, why are movies and books so different? Why are we not asking filmstars and movie producers to take a cut in the name of cheaper films? I don’t know. But I do know that the ‘greedy author’ tag must go. If you wish to call someone greedy (and I’m not sure name calling helps any cause) then do it at the directors of the multinationals behind both the currently high prices and the push to scrap the Parallel Importation Restrictions.