The High Cost of Books

The High Cost of Books
Everybody who visits or moves to Australia ends up being astounded by how much books cost here. I always just chalked it up to transport costs and local profiteering. That’s why I was interested to read former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s blog post this morning: “Protectionism Means You Pay More for Books”. So it sounds like there’s some rule that local bookstores can’t import stock from overseas if there’s an Australian publisher carrying the same book (inevitably for a higher price). The justification is that by propping up local publishers, we’re ensuring they’ll continue to publish Australian literature. Huh! I had no idea. THAT SUCKS. I guess that’s why most people I know get their books from Amazon or The Book Depository.


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  1. Yep. That’s what’s amazing to me about this latest round of the retail lobby whinging about people buying stuff from the evil internets. If you didn’t charge more than double what I can get it for overseas I wouldn’t bother importing it in the first place!

  2. And that is why retailers are crying and whinging about people buying from overseas. Even if we do pay the fast it is still significantly cheaper to buy from overseas… sigh.

  3. oops, substitute fast for GST, stupid slippery fingers 🙁

  4. I’m conflicted about this. I do think that it’s hard for Australian publishers to keep their heads above water, and if they go under who will publish local authors – the market here is too small and too… well, local in interest to be of value to publishers in the US or UK. But, yes, I buy many books from the UK every year.

  5. Yeah, I think I agree with M-H. It’s a a subsidy to ensure we continue to have literature (and non-fiction) that is culturally Australian. We’re too small to compete well, overshadowed by other countries who speak our language, and the rest of the world will never be as interested in us as we are in ourselves…

  6. It’s a real problem – I asked our local bookshop if they had the prequel to the Nightingale Floor series for a Christmas present – they didn’t and there wasn’t time to get it in – so Borders benefited. Just for interest I checked the Book Depository – same book posted to Australia – $10 cheaper. But there’s nothing nicer than browsing in a bookshop – reading the covers, smelling the new paper and print, taking in the variety of choice before you buy.

    It’s like the local yarn stores – I’d hate to see them go – how can you judge the depth of colour or the softness and drape of a yarn if you can’t see it and feel it?

    In both cases, 99% of the time I use the local shops – to my disadvantage – but it’s very tempting to do the mail order thing.

  7. Ah, but be careful not to conflate the issues here. We’re not talking about online vs. retail GST issue. The point of Carr’s post is that Australian retail shops aren’t allowed to source stock cheaply from overseas. Carr explicitly mentions the music market, and how opening it up has yet to damage the amount of Australian music that is available. So there seems to be debate over whether protectionism is actually necessary.

    My own opinion is that there will always be a market for quality local product (whether that be literature or music or organic tomatoes or knitting wool). Perhaps some of the less profitable publishers would disappear, but we shouldn’t be using the government to prop up someone else’s failing business model.

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