The Cost of Australian Books

An American friend of mine commented on Saturday night that he was shocked at the prices we had to pay for books in this country. "Basically, your paperback prices are equivalent to our hardback," he said. And he's perfectly correct. Just today I purchased a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink for the sum of $32.95, in paperback. I'll admit it is one of those large-sized formats, but the print size is pretty big (a point size of about 15) and the book runs to 277 pages, including the index.

In today's "Sydney Morning Herald", Damian Kringas expresses his own view on the matter. It's partly to do with GST on books, and partly that the bookseller is probably the fourth or fifth person in line to collect money off the sale, and it's possibly to do with problems of scale with only 20 million people in the country. But you still can't get over the fact that the prices seem high.

The great future hope will be print-on-demand (or POD for short) which implies that a bookshop will also be a print-shop, carrying only one copy of each book and offering a customer the prospect of a freshly printed version within minutes. The trouble is it's a pipe-dream at present. The technology just isn't there at present to provide the service at price that are considerably less than those currently available on pre-printed books.

I hope it changes soon. With hardcover copies of Saturday by Ian McEwan retailing for $49.95, I doubt it will be too long before customers start clamouring for it. The major difficulty will be that, as customers will want the book immediately, the copy will have to be printed on site. And that implies that only the big shops, capable of housing the printing infrastructure, will survive. I fear the end of the small corner bookstore.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 22, 2005 3:48 PM.

Review: The Gift of Speed by Steven Carroll was the previous entry in this blog.

Miles Franklin Award Crisis? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en