The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

AF­TER read­ing Bob Carr’s Fo­rum col­umn (‘‘ On the case for cheaper books’’, De­cem­ber 13-14), I vis­ited An­gus & Robert­son to pur­chase Ami­tav Ghosh’s new novel Sea of Pop­pies , rec­om­mended re­tail price $ 33, An­gus & Robert­son’s price $ 34.99. When I ques­tioned the price, the sales as­sis­tant looked it up on the com­puter and replied, ‘‘ I know the RRP is $ 33 but that is com­pany pric­ing pol­icy.’’ Ob­vi­ously no­body told the book­seller that peo­ple are do­ing it tough. Michael Sym­mons Towen Moun­tain, Queens­land IN Bob Carr as NSW premier we ap­pre­ci­ated a politi­cian who was a lover of books and a vo­ra­cious reader. A deep knowl­edge of books, how­ever, is dif­fer­ent from an un­der­stand­ing of the book in­dus­try. Take Carr’s ex­am­ple of P. D. James’s The Pri­vate Pa­tient , pub­lished by Allen & Un­win and which he says book­shops ‘‘ can­not do other than sell at $ 32.95’’. As every­one in the book trade knows, re­tail­ers are free to charge what­ever they wish and that ti­tle is on sale at Carr’s store, Dy­mocks, at $ 24.71, in­clud­ing tax. The past two decades have seen out­stand­ing growth in Aus­tralian pub­lish­ing. The de­struc­tion of ter­ri­to­rial copy­right would lead to a con­trac­tion of the book in­dus­try. Fewer books would be pub­lished, fewer au­thors would be dis­cov­ered and have their ca­reers built, and book­sellers and read­ers would be the losers. Pa­trick Gal­lagher Allen & Un­win

re­view@ theaus­tralian. com. au SIM­PLE ar­gu­ment such as the one Bob Carr posited on book prices is danger­ous. Why is it that a Dy­mocks board mem­ber makes such a plain­tive case for cheaper books when the same com­pany is sell­ing all of the books he cited in his col­umn well above the al­legedly cheap prices he ar­gues an open mar­ket will pro­duce? His com­par­isons also ig­nore the GST that by law is in the RRP of books in Aus­tralia ( 10 per cent) and New Zealand ( 12.5 per cent) but is not ap­plied in Bri­tain, in the state-based leg­is­lated US or to books sold into Aus­tralia via Ama­zon. Fi­nally, he fla­grantly quotes the RRP be­fore re­tailer dis­count of the books from Aus­tralian pub­lish­ers, but his over­seas com­par­isons all in­clude the re­tailer dis­count. Gabrielle Coyne Pen­guin Group ( Aus­tralia) BOB Carr shows a fright­en­ing lack of un­der­stand­ing of copy­right law. For a start, any book can be im­ported for a cus­tomer at any time un­der the sin­gle-or­der rule. Fur­ther­more, copy­right re­stric­tions on par­al­lel im­por­ta­tion ap­ply only if the lo­cal edi­tion is not made avail­able for sale within 30 days of over­seas pub­li­ca­tion. To com­pare full Aus­tralian re­tail prices to heav­ily dis­counted, GST-free prices from Ama­zon without in­clud­ing freight is mis­lead­ing. A con­sid­ered anal­y­sis of the rel­a­tive prices in­ter­na­tion­ally of ti­tles re­tain­ing ter­ri­to­rial copy­right tak­ing into ac­count the price at which Aus­tralian book­sellers are able to buy books from US whole­salers, in­clud­ing freight and al­low­ing book­sellers enough mar­gin to sur­vive, comes out with very dif­fer­ent re­sults. Chris Burgess Lead­ing Edge Books

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