First, some facts…
I want to read it.
I can buy the hard cover from Amazon US.
I can buy the audio CD from Amazon US (though I cannot buy the audio download from Audible US)
I can buy the hard cover, the trade paperback or an audio CD from Book Depository in the UK or Amazon UK. Both of these sites offer free shipping to Australia.
…and an assumption…
Based on past, extensive (most of my books in the last 3 years have been bought from one or other of these stores) experience it would take a maximum of 10 days to arrive on my doorstep, usually around 6-7.
…one final, stupid fact…
I cannot buy the book in any format from any store in Australia at the time of writing (and it doesn’t appear as a pre-order on any book website I access regularly)
….and a guess
The book will cost $10-$15 more if I wait to buy it in an Australian store than the cheapest offering currently open to me ($19.19 from Book Depository with free shipping, Australian RRP for trade paperbacks is usually around the $33 mark).
What the BISG says about it all
In summary the Book Industry Strategy Group thinks this is all fine and dandy. Read on if you want a more detailed ‘analysis’ (i.e. mini rant).
The BISG had as its overall aim
to work with industry and government to develop a comprehensive strategy for securing Australia’s place in the emerging digital book market, while making the Australian book industry more efficient and globally competitive.
and it delivered its final report to the Australian Government last week.
Recommendation 4 of the report deals with Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) which were established as part of our copyright law in 1991 and which prevent the importation or selling of a book if there is a local holder of rights for the same book (in turn, the local rights holder must make the book available within 30 days of the book’s publication elsewhere). The aim of these restrictions was to level the playing field for local sellers (who face problems not of their making in the form of the ever-present tyranny of distance and a small population relative to other English-speaking markets) and to offer the best chance for works by local artists to thrive (I swear I have tried but I never did understand this part of the argument).
The BISG had quite a bit to say about the PIRs including a repetition of the Government’s 2009 finding on the issue, namely
The Productivity Commission found that the PIRs placed upward pressure on book prices, restricted commercial decisions for booksellers and were an ineffective mechanism for offsetting cultural externalities for Australian works;
and goes on to provide an update on the situation as it is now
…through its research and consultations the Book Industry Strategy Group notes that over the last two years, the Australian market has become more integrated with international markets. In 2010, Australian consumers purchased around 18 per cent of print books online, of which 53 per cent (or $150 million) was from an overseas online bookseller, thereby placing considerable pressure on Australian booksellers.
and admitted that the PIRs probably have the exact opposite of their intended effect
the 30/90 supply conditions of the PIRs no longer provide the same level of protection for the Australian industry as they did previously. As consumer expectations about price and availability increase, the PIR conditions may in fact advantage overseas suppliers and steer consumers away from books authored and produced in Australia. The emergence of online sales has created a buyers’ market and expecting consumers to wait 30 days to purchase a book that they can access immediately through overseas suppliers is no longer feasible.
And went so far as to state quite explicitly that
Consumers in Australia need access to print books and ebooks as soon as they are available in their market of origin and as soon as publishers can realistically get them to our markets. This is a change that recognises the impact that e-retailing and technological change is having on booksellers and publishing (highlighting my own)
But despite all of this the BISG does not recommend the immediate repeal of the PIRs and instead suggests
That the Australian book industry (authors, printers, publishers and booksellers) formalise an agreed, industry-wide code of practice that will reduce the timeframe for retention of territorial copyright from 30/90 days to 14/14 days without the need to amend existing legislation.
It’s enough to make a reader weep.
They’re saying they acknowledge PIRs don’t work, they acknowledge they’re hurting the industry, they acknowledge that over half of the books bought online by Australians are bought overseas (and we can guess this figure is growing) but they’re still not ready to give up the PIRs entirely.
In a strange way I think I’d have had a modicum of respect for them if they’d dug their heels in but this half-arsed recommendation proves they’re not a strategy group; they’re a bunch of insipid, fence-sitting, do-nothings unprepared to admit that the industry has been wrong about this issue since 1991.
There is, honestly, enough source material for an entire year’s worth of rants in the rest of the 108 page report but I’m not sure I have the energy.
For now I’ve got to go order a book from the UK.