HELP WRITE THE FUTURE OF BOOKS IN AUSTRALIA

In this time of rapid change in the book industry, the Australian Government’s Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) is seeking your view on the future of books in Australia.

Digital book production and global online distribution are fundamentally changing the nature of the industry. The BISG, chaired by the Hon Dr Barry Jones AO and with membership from representatives across the book supply chain, has been established to:

  • examine how the Australian industry can prosper in the digital marketplace;
  • consider the immediate challenge of making the supply chain for printed books more efficient;
  • explore how the print and electronic supply chains might be integrated through the development of viable business models; and
  • engage with other advisory bodies, organisations and Australian Government agencies that have an interest in this issue.

The views of industry practitioners and of consumers are vital to determining how the Australian industry may be structured in the future.  The BISG invites you to contribute to this discussion by making a written submission.

To participate, or to get more information, visit www.innovation.gov.au/bisg or phone (02) 6213 7898. Submissions will be accepted from 18 October to 10 December 2010. 

9 Responses to “Have your say in the future of Australian books…”

  1. Therese Holland,

    music industry experience has shown that it is very hard for new entrants to get recording contracts and the same is starting to happen in the US for new authors
    they are not getting contracts from the major publisher but penny advances from smaller publishers
    given the size of the American market this does not auger well for new Australian authors

  2. Meg,

    Hi Therese,
    Yes, the Australian industry is seeing a contraction in the financial capacity of publishers to support new authors through the traditional ‘advance plus royalties’ model.
    The future of the book holds many challenges and opportunities for the publishing industry, writers, and readers alike. I encourage everyone to have their say in the BISG consultation process.
    Cheers,
    Meg

  3. Edie,

    In some genres in the US are going with smaller digital first companies, without the royalty but higher percentage from sales.
    This could be a chance for small indy publishers in Aus?

  4. Robert N Stephenson,

    Often when this comes up the notion of some kind of protectionism is brought into the discussion in some form. Publishing, like all industries is a free market enterprise and within that it has a rule of profit. What can be done by the government in the development and continuance of the industry in support for new writers, new voices and new books from with Australia?

    Much has been done through ARTS suppor grants and these can be improved and expanded to help Australian publishers take the neccessary steps to develop the new works now caught up in traditional back logs. This said, such things are hard to manage well and effectively without propper or experienced book examiners to decide on the profitabel and beneficial works for Australia. With the loss of ABC books to harper Collins the small support window here has closed, so another way needs to be found and used.

    No discussion or plan can move forward without the discussion of money. GOvernment bodies lose a great deal in the funding just in the administration of such funding. Where I could possibly see 5 new authors into print for a cost of perhaps $100 000 (this is a negotiated advance/royalty with mainstream publisher plus costs), it could be seen such a move for a government agency could cosy closer to $350 000, which in all reasonableness is irresponsible and poorly targetted expenditure.

    I do run a small press – focus on famous writers only – and can asses what might and might not benefit Australian readers and perhaps publishers – naturally any such assessment process would also include publishgers involved with such a program. Costs per book can be reduced under this applied grant process (propper costing would need to be shown)

    The support here would not be protectionism but ARTS developemnbt and expansion. If books under grant can profit then these help publishers also expand their procurement of Australian authors for sale in Australia and overseas.

    The system can work and work effectively cost wise and developmental wise – the issue is that it would require the use of as 3rd party who can keep budgetary contraint.

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  6. Nicola,

    Bookselling in Aus today is more than just competitive. It is cut throat. Gone is the day when a bookshop would do well. There are several reasons for new bookshops – especially niche ones.

    1. Dropshippers – love them or loathe them – Aussie buyers don’t want to pay full price. They have grown used to the the deep discounting (up to 50% off) for new titles. Unfortunately, particularly small niche sellers can’t compete. The dropshippers pay no GST impost and no shipping fees generally. The only people who really do well out of this model are overseas.

    These people usually have little to no knowledge of the titles they sell, they are not committed to growing this genre – it is all about the quick $$.

    2. Wholesalers in Aus are uncompetitive. If I can buy a book o/s for up to 1/3 off the price I pay a wholesaler here, landed, tell me why I should use an Au wholesaler? Oh I know about keeping aussie jobs – and that is a fine reason, but not enough when I am fighting for my job. But one of the biggest issues for many small bookshops is the minimum purchase limits of the wholesalers. Yes, I can see they want us to all give an undertaking of purching x $ per year – but for a small bookshop, sometimes this is just beyond the grasp. The minimum limits defeat many small sellers, simply because at the end of the day in order to get diversity (for those who sell every genre) they must use multiple suppliers. But if all those suppliers need say a guaranteed $10K ea and you take 3 suppliers into the mix – that is $30K for some sellers, that is just not achievable.

    3. Honesty in sales – many of the big names have websites – well so do many of the small sellers. What many do not tell you is who has stock on hand and who doesn’t. A buyer who purchases a book wants to know how long it will take. Some are happy to wait 4 – 6 weeks. Others aren’t. If the sellers are upfront about what is in stock and how long the lead times are, we will all do so much better.

    4. Knowledge – I can’t say how many times I have in the past gone into a bookshop to ask for a book by an author. The blank look says it all. Educate your staff so that they know what they are selling.

    5. Range of Authors – well that is pretty self explanatory. The range and education of the buyer in Au is non-existent. The range you see in the big stores is only the tip of the iceberg. We pick a selection and that is it. There are so many good authors who never get airplay in Au because we have an attitude that only bookshops (large) know who is good for the Au market.

    People, it is time to fight or die as booksellers.

  7. Meg,

    Thanks for your informed comments, Robert and Nicola.

    Robert, it’s interesting to consider publishers in the light of arts funding, when the focus has been on artists. Projects like yours and also if:books will be worth watching.

    Nicola, it will be great if Google Editions includes the option of bricks’n’mortar interfaces, so we can continue to support our favourite indie booksellers when we shop online.

    • Peter Hazel,

      I sell second hand books.
      Have done for 16 years in a country market in the Adelaide hills. I know what people ask for, what their needs are book wise.
      Oh dear, here are many reasons why I bless publishers. They are my stock in trade . But people don’t want to pay 30 bux for a book………..
      still. Good Luck!
      Peter Hazel

  8. Sharron Clemons,

    […] Have your say in the future of Australian books Speakeasy […]

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