Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The "Australian" publishing industry

has enjoyed protections granted to publishing in no other country. But, things have changed in the last few years. There have been mergers in the publishing world. There has been the rise of e-books and "self-publishing" has become a viable option for many. 
E-books, Kindles and other e-readers may not be as popular as many thought they would be but they undoubtedly fill a need for many people. I know people who fill their Kindles to capacity before they go on holiday.
Many of the "self-published" books would never have seen "publication" at all before the electronic capacity now available to so many of us. I am not sure this is a good thing but it is a fact of life.
And it must be particularly tempting for many Downunder writers. Those protections which are supposed to "nurture" writers here are stifling publication rather than enhancing it. Bookshops do not benefit from those protections in the way in which it was intended. The laws were supposed to protect the market from being flooded with cheap remainders from abroad - from the US in particular but also from the UK. 
There are books that do not get "published" here at all so libraries never see them. Others take months and months after publication to reach the shelves. 
Even local authors suffer. The last book of one very popular and best selling author took eleven months to reach the shelves of the local library and that was considered to be "fast". Did the delay mean the author sold more copies? No. The book was not available in a local independent bookshop. I  could have bought a copy from the Book Depository for  $16.95 (including postage). The bookshop eventually got some copies and the price was $28.95. People who know these things are simply not going to pay the extra $12.
The idea that local authors benefit from these protections no longer holds true. Many. perhaps most, publishers are international. Any agent worthy of the title "agent" must surely work on an international basis now. Books with limited, local appeal are unlikely to attract publication now even if the restrictions stay in place. A good author will be talked about on sites like "Goodreads" and some will still make it to commercial media columns. 
Freeing up the market may not have the dire consequences for local writing that many predict. There may even be an increase in such services as "print on demand".
So, who do the restrictions benefit?


Jan said...

I am on a limited budget, as indeed are most of us. I simply can no longer afford to buy books down here. I buy from Book Depository which has been Amazon under another name for a ew years now. However, their service surpasses the usual Amazon. Free postage to pretty well anywhere is a big advantage. The range they usually have is another.

I priced a craft book. In early $20 from Book Depository and over $50 from both USA and down here. Plus exorbitant, slow and poor postal service from USA. Had I wanted to, the USA edition could have been autographed at a price. I doubt whether the fame or skill of the author warranted the extra amount charged.

I have managed a small, specialty bookshop twice and have some idea of the problems of publishing. However, it is rarely the author who benefits from the prices charged here.

catdownunder said...

Have to agree Jan!