As you might expect there has been much news commentary about the collapse this week of the parent company which owns Borders and Angus & Robertson, collectively Australia’s largest bookstore chain by a long shot. One of the best roundups of opinion appeared on Crikey on Friday. The online-only news outlet talked to a range of industry pundits about the issue. I can’t help but respond to two points made in the roundup:
- Sophie Cunningham, author and former publisher said “I don’t see this is about parallel importation”.
- Maree McCaskill, CEO of the Australian Publishers Association said “Ultimately if you look at the stats of the average shopping price, it’s cheaper to buy in Australia”
To both of these comments my response is “bullshit”.
My evidence is in form of a small chart. Here are the prices of a half-dozen current release books:
As you can see there is not a single book that is cheaper to buy in Australia (not even the one by an actual Australian author) and I promise you if I had more time I could have made the chart 100 books or 1000 books long and nothing would have changed. Some things you should know
- These were the first six books I thought of, not a carefully selected set of aberrations.
- Book Depository offers free shipping to Australia
- Boomerang does not offer free shipping in Australia (shipping is $6.95 per order regardless of how many books you buy so if you want to take advantage of their low-ish prices you really have to order in bulk otherwise each book costs $6.95 more)
- All of these titles have been officially published in Australia.
To Ms Cunningham I say, “how can it not at least partly be about parallel importation (i.e. the regulation preventing an Australian book seller from importing a title from overseas if the same title has been released in Australia or is planned for Australia within 30 days)? If Dymocks or Readings or Boomerang were allowed to buy their stock at the same places and at the same rates as Book Depository then one of their biggest cost pressures would be significantly reduced and that has to be a factor for them all.
To Ms McCaskill I say “do you think if you say a lie often enough we’ll believe it?” Clearly it’s not cheaper to buy books in Australia and only a fool would pretend otherwise.
Obviously there are a number of factors at play over the collapse of REDgroup, not the least of which appears to be that the company really did have the business sense of house bricks, and the book selling landscape is changing worldwide, not just in Australia. But I am heartily sick of being treated like a moron or cast as un-Australian by pundits like Ms McCaskill (who in the same article claimed Australian consumers don’t care about Australian companies) simply because I don’t choose to throw my limited disposable income at overpriced, badly run businesses.