I have a particular interest in this, but the really big news in this issue is the front page story on the approval of the Pemulwuy Project in Redfern.
So here’s your copy of the paper: SSH_JULY_09 pdf
There’s a lot to read in the South Sydney Herald, and it isn’t all parochial; for example Laura Bannister & Robert Morrison give a fuller account of a story published in the May SSH on “abducted” protesters on behalf of Ugandan child soldiers.
And there’s a story by me too, on the book trade.
You can read it in big writing over the break.
Cheaper books? Yes please!
Not many of us would disagree with that. Sydney University Education student Thomas Elley certainly would agree. “When you can order from Amazon, pay the conversion and shipping on top of the price of the book itself, and still get books cheaper than it would cost to drive down to the local bookstore (e.g. Borders) and buy it from there, I think that there’s a problem somewhere in the line.”
The big chain stores seem to be on the side of the consumer. As Dymocks CEO Don Grover told ABC Radio : “Parallel importation restrictions prevent book sellers from importing books into Australia which can be purchased more cheaply overseas. As a consequence, book sellers must purchase product from Australian publishers at higher prices. These prices are ultimately paid by the consumer.”
Sounds good, but is it?
The Australian Productivity Commission proposal is a bit mysterious to those of us outside the book trade, but it does seem to offer a chance for cheaper books.
Australians for Australian Books, on the other hand, claims the present arrangements mean that Australian publishers have “the security to invest in new books, underpinning their development of Australian talent, while ensuring new books come on the Australian market quickly and booksellers can buy the titles they need.” At present “an Australian publisher who buys the rights to publish an overseas book in Australia gains Australian copyright for the book if it is published here within 30 days of overseas publication” and “the same publisher effectively loses that protection if unable to supply the book to an Australian buyer within 90 days.”
Cornstalk Bookshop owner Paul Feain has been in the business for thirty years in the same Glebe Point Road premises. “I’m not too worried about the Productivity Commission as it doesn’t much affect the second hand book trade.” He thinks everyone is worrying too much. “They said the GST would ruin the book trade, but it hasn’t.”
Down the road at Gleebooks David Gaunt questions the “books will be cheaper” belief.
“Large chain booksellers and the coalition for cheaper books are in favour because they can order from different sources than at the moment. The rest of the retail sector find they don’t have the market power to operate that way and need the sales support that goes with what operates at the moment. In practice most booksellers agree the law needs amending, but few are in favour of the market being open totally as they would lose more than they would gain. Books may not be cheaper, but may even become more expensive — for example, Amazon may have GST applied to it which doesn’t happen at the moment.”
Mr Feain and Mr Gaunt agree that the independent book sector in Australia is vibrant. Neither has found the global downturn greatly affecting business. New players like Borders have slotted into the general picture with little adverse impact. The big impact has been from online outfits like Amazon. It is difficult for independents to compete as their online businesses are comparatively expensive given the difference in scale, but even so online business is growing and they are able to offer a higher level of personal service. Paul Feian, in fact, was the second Australian bookseller to go online.
• http://www.ausbooks.com.au/ — Australians for Australian Books
• http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books/issuespaper Productivity Commission Issues Paper