Sunday, August 30, 2009


I love books. I was brought up to only ever look at a book, hold a book, read a book, with clean hands. Never fold the corners of the pages over. Never write in a book.

Over the years I bought many books. Some I kept, many I passed on. In the last 15 to 20 years my book purchasing has fallen off to nearly nothing. Aside from the fact that I was at work or commuting for 11-12 hours a day and so had no time to read (and if I read before sleeping I would find myself asleep within ten minutes, and then part of that ten minutes every night spent reading the same few paragraphs to catch up to where I was the night before prior to flaking out), books have become an expensive luxury.

Now I am working closer to home for a while I have time to do a little reading. At the moment I'm reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel", finishing off Steyn's "America Alone", and half way through Ian Plimer's "Heaven+Earth". There are so many more books I'd like to read, but where to start! Another problem I have with reading now is that I can read a book and promptly forget the story (or large chunks of the story), my short-term memory is shot.

Back to the reason for this post... Books in Australia.

Cabinet is split on cheaper books as PM Kevin Rudd urged to keep ban.

AUSTRALIAN readers could continue to pay high prices for books, as the Rudd government faces increasing internal pressure to maintain restrictions on overseas book imports.

A special Labor Party working group will this week recommend the restrictions be kept, to protect local authors, publishers and printing workers.

The report says the government should reject an appeal by big retailers such as Dymocks and Woolworths that they be able to sell imported books more cheaply.

Federal cabinet is split on the issue, which it will consider within weeks when it receives a submission from Competition Minister Craig Emerson. He is understood to take the opposite view to the working party, backing instead a recent recommendation from the Productivity Commission that the import restrictions be removed.
Late in 1991 I was in Hawaii. The two single great and good differences between Australia and Hawaii were Tower Records (CDs had just come on the market in Australia, vinyl had reduced from about $12-$21 per album to about $7, and CDs were being flogged off for almost $30 - please correct me if my amounts are wrong, my long term memory has holes, too!), and the couple of bookshops I saw in Honolulu. Tower Records were selling CD albums for $US11, at that stage the $A was about 81c/$US1. The bookshop had books from a huge variety, particularly biographical and true crime for about $US6 or so each. For me it was heaven!

So, publishers and authors in Australia insist that the industry should be protected as we are some kind of niche, and new authors wouldn't be given a run without our market.

Sounds to me like it could be hogwash.


RebeccaH said...

For years I couldn't squeeze out the time to read books (when reading had been one of my chief pleasures). After the kids grew up, and when I finally retired, I took up reading books again, but I found that my concentration was shot. It took a while to get back into reading and retaining, as if my brain had to be retrained and taught to let go of thinking about other stuff that "needed" to be done. I usually knock off about four or five books a month now.

kae said...

I used to be able to read a book and watch TV and retain the lot.
Now I can only do one thing. If I am watching TV while doing something else which requires a little concentration I can't absorb what's happening on the TV.

It's truly annoying!

Carpe Jugulum said...

Afternoon Kae

Yes i too appreciate a good read, mainly Tom Holt & Terry Pratchett.

The current pricing, i feel, is falsely inflated. Being able to travel overseas quite regularly i see books in Narito or Tokyo for 1/3 (exchange rates aside) of what i'd pay in Aust. The whole protected market thing for me just doesn't work. On the upside there are 2 second hand bookshops up the road from work so i win two ways.

Anonymous said...

I'm a library man of late, have far too many books already, despite giving many away when moving.

There are a few authors in Oz I like to read (sci-fi and history) and I'm waiting for their next book.

Unfortunately the good ones are far and few between.

Their books are available on Amazon, so if they are good enough they will sell.

It's not the authors we are protecting, it's the publishers and printers.

kae, I reread many of the books I read before, my motto is better to read a good book twice than a bad one once.
Rather restricts your choice a bit but I take notice of recommendations like that of Paco's or if you have any in mind don't be shy.


Boy on a bike said...

Having kids has ruined my book reading time. I love blogs so much because I can read a short article on a blog in between the kids digging up the garden or skydiving off the bar stools. I need to be able to settle down for a few hours with a book, and I have not had that luxury now for years.

Looking forward to the little tackers going to school...

In my opinion, people either buy books or they don't. Cheaper books will not make those that don't read buy books. Those that buy books will simply get cheaper books - which is a good thing. But I don't believe cheaper books will have any educational impact at all. Cheaper smokes would not encourage me to take up smoking!

Skeeter said...

My brother was a bookseller for years and had never a kind word for publishers.
But recent dealings with a major Australian publisher have caused me to change my mind on who makes most of the money out of books.

This was the breakdown for a recent book written, printed and published in Australia:
Retailer's RRP: $66 including GST
Publisher's wholesale: $39, which covered all costs of production including design, printing, binding, distribution and author's royalties.
Author: $3.90 (10% of publisher's wholesale price).
For a population as small as Australia's, profitable publishing is very difficult to achieve.

Carpe Jugulum said...

Thanks Skeeter,

Wow that is one hell of a markup from wholesale to retail. In commercial construction we work with a 5% margin. Wow.

Skeeter said...

Carpe, a lot of books are being sold with mark-ups as low as 5%.
Individual booksellers are no longer viable businesses because the big chains and supermarkets undercut the RRP by huge amounts and the little guys can't compete.
The problem is, the chain-stores only carry the big-volume top-sellers or marked-down remainders.
Most books written in Australia do not make it into the top-seller lists.
An Australian friend who is a top-seller (9 million+ books sold so far) was rejected by all Australian publishers.
She had her first novel accepted by a UK publisher and her novels are now published in 28 languages.
She doesn't know what percentage she is being paid in royalties, and she doesn't care.