S.O.S. – Australian authors in peril

I’ve written before about the Australian government body, the Productivity Commission’s inquiry in the lifting of restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books to Australia. (PIRs)

Now they’ve geared up for the next stage of submissions, round-table conferences etc before passing it all over to the Federal Government for a decision.

Let me be blunt here – there was as much need to change the current ruling as a fish needs to smoke.

Arguments put forward by the put-together group, the Coalition for Cheaper Books say that lifting the restrictions will ensure cheaper books in Australia. The Coalition members are the large franchisee business Dymocks and major discount retail chains of Woolworths, Coles, K Mart, Big W and Target.

But there is no guarantee that books will be cheaper – in fact, the Productivity Commission even admitted this fact themselves on page 4.11 in their recent Discussion Draft.

The Coalition for Cheaper Books want to scrap the restrictions altogether. If the PIRs are lifted, it basically means that authors receive less royalties because if a book is published overseas authors don’t get the full 10% royalty, they get a % of the royalty depending on where the book is sold and for how much. And if the book is remaindered, authors usually get nothing – because the price of the book falls below the production cost.

But my biggest concern is that our Australian children’s picture books and novels will be geared to the US market first. We all know what happens if the American publishing market gets an Aussie title – they change the spelling and the content to fit the taste, understandings and sensibilities of American readers. So yes, for a start MUM will become MOM.

The Productivity Commission’s discussion draft recommends three things, the first being: That Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) for books should be modified as follows:

  • PIRs should apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. Thereafter, parallel importation should be freely permitted.

Established authors will be disadvantaged by this ruling as in many cases the second year sees more book sales – this means that a successful author like Kate Grenville, whose books generally do better the second year they’re out, and her publisher, Text Publishing Company will be much worse off financially.

The same applies to any author in Australian. In the second year after publication cheap imports of books will be allowed into the country; publishers will cut back on taking ‘risks’ with non-established authors. Developing authors like myself, and all those committed writers out there who work to become published authors will have as much chance as … yes, that fish having a ciggie.

You, as an Australian book buyer have a choice. Would you rather ….

  1. (Possibly) pay a few dollars less for a book of inferior quality? Remembering cheapness is not a guaranteed fact.   ….OR….
  2. Pay for a carefully chosen book by an Australian author and/or illustrator, thereby ensuring the continued publishing of books by Australian authors; and the guarantee that what your children will read will be stories written by Australians, with Australian content, spelling, landscape et al!


Inform as many people as you can about this important issue PARENTS … GRANDPARENTS … TEACHERS … LIBRARIANS … BOOKLOVERS.

Write to politicians – they will make the final decision in the Federal Parliament.

PS I know a great way to drop the price on books – get rid of their GST. We don’t pay GST on essential food items, why pay it on that other essential item for the mind, books?

2 thoughts on “S.O.S. – Australian authors in peril

  1. Excellent post Sheryl and congratulations on taking a leading role in this fight. You’re an inspiration.


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