Some relief is in sight for Australia’s ailing book industry with Federal Government plans to allow faster access to new books by reducing import barriers.
But booksellers say the changes to free up the market do not go far enough and wider reform is needed.
Current rules prevent bookstores from importing a book themselves if the local publisher brings it in within 30 days of publication and renews the supply with 90 days.
The new approach would require publishers to bring the books in within 14 days and renew supplies within 14 days.
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The details of the new import arrangement will be settled by a new group, the Book Industry Collaborative Council.
The council is to be chaired by Macquarie University economics professor David Throsby and its members include Australian Society of Authors chairwoman Sophie Masson, Melbourne University Press publisher Louise Adler, Australian Booksellers Association chief Jon Page, and broadband industry analyst Paul Budde.
The minister assisting for Industry and Innovation, Senator Kate Lundy, announced the Book Industry Collaborative Council and said broader book industry collaboration was critical to achieve reform.
“By reducing the 30/90 day rule to 14/14, local suppliers and booksellers will be able to access new books sooner and this will benefit Australian buyers who will be able to buy them in local bookstores more quickly,” Senator Lundy said.
“The initiative brings Australian book release dates more into line with overseas release dates and goes some way towards ensuring the Australian market is more in tune with global markets.”
Senator Lundy acknowledged Australia’s book industry is going through a tough time.
“The new council has a challenging task ahead of them. The environment in which books are created, produced and distributed is undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift, which is why this new body will be so important to help the industry work together on transforming itself in response to the BISG report.”
However, Steve Cox, managing director of Dymocks told SmartCompany the changes did not go far enough.
“I don’t think it is a meaningful change. It is a step in the right direction, but ultimately it won’t deliver the changes we are looking for to make sure our customers receive books as quickly as possible and at a competitive price,” says Cox.
“To maximise competition in the Australian bookselling industry we would argue for the removal of parallel import restrictions on printed books.
“Clearly, changes to GST legislation would also benefit the book industry, either the removal of GST on books or levying of GST on all imported products into Australia.”