Cheaper Books? By Daan Spijer and Angela Sunde

By Daan Spijer

I’m angry and dismayed.  The Productivity Commission has been looking at the ‘issue’ of parallel importation of books in Australia.

The current law forbids the importing of books from overseas while the same titles are available as local imprints.  This prevents ‘dumping’ of overseas editions and ensures that local authors can earn higher royalties.

The Commission’s inquiries have been in part based on the question: ‘How can we reduce the price of books in Australia?’  The premise is that allowing UK and USA editions in, would reduce the price.  Amazon and other internet ‘shops’ notwithstanding, there is no clear evidence of this.

And need books be cheaper?  Australia has one of the highest levels of book sales per capita.  Someone on the inquiry panel even had the gall to suggest that writers really do not need to be paid, because of the pleasure they gain from writing and from being published.

I would like to see that argument applied to everyone else who enjoys their labour, including politicians and members of the Commission; oh, and people working for the bookshop chain that has been one of the forces behind the inquiry.  By the way, parallel importing of books is not allowed by the UK or the USA.

Back to the useful questions.  Before asking ‘what can I do about …? (the economy, the environment, road tolls), it is useful to ask ‘why?’.  Why does the economy need to grow a certain amount each year?  Why should we not pollute?  Why should books be cheaper?  Why do I care?

Reprinted with kind permission of Daan Spijer…from his Thinking Allowed Blog. You can view the complete post at:

Bunheang Ung's cartoon resizedMore on this issue by Angela Sunde

In its report on PIRs  the Productivity Commission said that books will be cheaper: “provided that competition amongst booksellers is sufficient to ensure that cost reductions are generally passed on to consumers” (5.27)

I do not believe that the giant supermarkets masquerading as booksellers under the ‘Coalition for Cheaper Books’ name or Dymocks intend to pass any savings on to the consumer.

Once the independent booksellers close their doors due to the lifting of the PIRs, there will be no competition. The duopoly of Woolworths and Coles will have won once again.

One thought on “Cheaper Books? By Daan Spijer and Angela Sunde

  1. And we’ve been holding back on criticising the other big booksellers like Borders and Angus & Robinson etc because they haven’t been part of the so-called Coalition for Cheaper Books – but they have been caught out pricing their books higher than the RRP many times – more than Dymocks even.
    Maybe Australian readers should be taking them all on about this issue.

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