The Rising Cost of Australian Books

During my regular morning scan of various literary weblogs (mostly based in the US) I came across a new one from Richard S. Wheeler called The Iconoclast. The amusing thing that caught my eye was his note: "Seven or eight dollars for a throwaway paperback is too much; that will buy a lot of hamburger."

Gee, I wish I could buy paperbacks, even throwaway ones, in Australia for seven or eight dollars, or, even translated from the US, for ten or twelve. The two I have sitting on the desk next to me are Monica Ali's Brick Lane, and Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty. Both are trade paperbacks, ie hardback sized softcovers, which is the publication method of choice for most non-Australian fiction reprinted in this country. The Ali novel has a price tag of $29.95, and the Hollinghurst $28.00. These prices are pretty standard, but I have been noticing similar publications sneaking over the thirty dollar mark of late. It's hard to get a similar view of non-fiction, either in hardback or softcover as what I buy from overseas is rarely available here, and what I buy here is, probably, rarely available overseas. The best example I can come up with is Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos, listed at $49.95 here and at $28.95 in the US. Oddly enough, that seems almost reasonable.

It's the fiction I have most trouble with. I've heard all the arguments: size of market, supporting local authors, supporting local bookshops, etc, etc. But you have to wonder if the price of these books is deterring people from buying them. You then have the publishers saying that readers don't buy paperback fiction anymore, so they increase the price to compensate for the lack of sales, and then readers buy less, and then the publishers... It seems a pretty specious argument to me. And now the word is that local publishers are not taking on any new local writers because the market just isn't there.

So I'm at a bit of a loss. I can't see the prices stabilising or reducing, and I can't see more local authors coming on to the market. The future doesn't look that flash for anyone involved, readers, writers or publishers. The only ones who seem to be making a living are the distributors.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 6, 2005 9:02 AM.

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