Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Say goodbye... the Australian publishing industry.

The Productivity Commission, a body set up to "help governments make better policies in the long term interest of the Australian community" handed down it's recommendations into the Restriction of Parallel Importation of Books yesterday.

Australian publishers are currently given 30 days to publish a local version of any book published in the world. Bookshops must then sell the Australian version and cannot import a cheaper alternative.

Without this limit, local publishers will have to fight harder for market share - and will fail. And in failing, new authors will find it more difficult, if not impossible, to find a publisher here.

It means an influx of poorer quality books at yes, reduced prices local publishers cannot hope to match. Worse, Australia will become a dumping ground for 'remainders' and any non-profitable book from overseas.

The most contentious issues is that Parallel Import Restrictions (PIR) leads to higher prices for the consumer. Maree McCaskill, chief executive officer of the Australian Publishers Association, said New Zealand was the only other big market to do away with restrictions on book publishing, but there was little evidence that it had led to lower prices.

One underlying factor is that books here attract Goods and Services Tax, while ordering books online does not. But I saw no discussion of exempting books from that tax. Another factor is the exchange rate, but there's little anyone can do about that.

And who initiated this pile of excrement? Why, the Coalition for Cheaper Books headed by one of the largest book retailers in the country, Dymocks and the two major supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles.

The industry has three years before the recommendations take effect; that is, if the Government goes head and adopts those recommendations. It's now up to Prime Minister Rudd to save a vibrant, culturally significant industry, or see job losses, exports reduced and new Australian writers go elsewhere for publishing.

Or is the Labor Government comfortable snuggling up to Big Business at the expense of the small?

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