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Authors and Book Protection

February 19, 2011

You may have read me in The Weekend Australian making familiar points about the idiocy of Australian government policy stopping our bookshops importing cheaper books for their customers. The Productivity Commission said in 2009 this ban on imports makes books here one third more expensive than they would otherwise be. It costs book buyers $250 million a year and is driving the growth in on-line sales at the expense of book shops big and small.

You see I have always liked bookshops and see them as having cultural significance. It will be a sad world if they go.

But we are told these artificially high prices are necessary because without the indirect subsidy to publishers the publishers will no longer bring Australian works into print. Interesting : this makes Australia the most generous nation in the entire world when it comes to supporting writers. Think – $250 million a year from book buyers’ pockets to help the writers stay in print, a one third impost on every book you buy.

I’m not aware we’ve got a literature that measures up to this formidable subsidy.

And how unfair to those who don’t like Aussie literature or contemporary fiction anyway, that they should be effectively taxed in this most lavish and inefficient approach to cultural policy.

Remove the ban on book imports and give the nation cheaper books. Then lift subsidies to Australian writers, making our support for them transparent, eliminating the publishers from the equation.

My God, a nation that keeps the price of books artificially high ? Not the clever country if you ask me.

  1. February 19, 2011 9:43 pm

    Very well said.

  2. Dave permalink
    February 21, 2011 7:40 am

    Agreed. But the main thing for me here is that with bookstores going the way they have been & the growth of e-books & online bookstores based overseas, these restrictions are becoming increasing irrelevant & will become more so over the next few years.

  3. February 23, 2011 12:41 pm

    The price of books is high…and as an author (relatively unsuccessful – so far) I would rather sell more books at a reduced royalty than none at a large royalty. Makes sense to have a cheaper price. My books sell(badly) via amazon…but they do sell.

    George Fripley – author of You Can’t Polish a Turd – the Civil Servant’s Manual and also the soon to be released Dregs of History.

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