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Andrew Barr goes in to bat for cheaper books

By johnboy - 1 June 2009 43

[First filed: June 01, 2009 @ 10:52]

A few months ago I realised that my lifetime habit of buying a book every week could no longer be afforded. With little change from a $50 note for new releases books had moved up beyond discretionary spending for me and into the realm of planned purchases.

It’s not such a big problem for me. I can already read reasonably proficiently. But it must be a nightmare for parents trying to encourage young voracious readers.

Last month Lateline covered the issues. Whereby the local publishing industry considers the high prices a reasonable price to pay for the handful of local authors they encourage.

I reckon this is balls. I would suggest that the national interest is better served by encouraging a million readers rather than paying for the lifestyles of a few dozen authors and Louise Adler. And even without the protection the really good authors like Tim Winton would thrive.

So I’m pleased to see Andrew Barr has announced he’s taking up the cause at next week’s meeting of Education Ministers.

    By making books artificially more expensive, this outdated and anti-competitive law is making it harder for kids, especially those from less well-off families to buy and read books.

    It’s also making it harder for our school libraries to get as many books for their buck as they could.

    Under the Education Revolution we are all working and investing millions to improve literacy and numeracy for kids from low-socioeconomic backgrounds in particular. Any law that makes books more expensive is bad law. Any law that means our school libraries have fewer books available to students is bad law. Any law that effectively makes it harder for kids to read is bad law.


UPDATED: The Greens’ Shane Rattenbury on the other hand is arguing that keeping some local authors and editors employed is more important than having book prices which let us buy books.

    “There has been a push by the big players such as Dymocks, Coles and Woolworths to scrap parallel import restrictions, and while it’s not at all clear that there would be any long term benefit to book buyers, it seems that the big end of town think they would be the winners.”

    “The Australian publishing industry has flourished under the existing arrangements, creating smart economy jobs for authors, editors, publishers, booksellers and printers.”

What’s Your opinion?

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43 Responses to
Andrew Barr goes in to bat for cheaper books
deezagood 12:21 pm 01 Jun 09

But good on Andrew Barr for taking up this issue.

deezagood 12:19 pm 01 Jun 09

Jim Jones said :

The Brad said :

– Shop at amazon. It often works out cheaper if you are prepared to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive via overseas.

Free (and very fast) shipping!

I’m too impatient to wait for books to become available through the library and as I am a re-reader, I like to keep them. The book depo is fabulous, as is amazon and even ebay. I never, ever buy new books/textbooks any more as there are plenty available cheaply on-line.

Thumper 12:13 pm 01 Jun 09

Cheaper books?

I for one will not be complaining.

Tony 12:02 pm 01 Jun 09

I buy a lot of computer reference books which typically cost $80-110 in Australian stores, but I buy them from for US$30-40 which usually equates to AU$60 (including shipping). Sure I have to wait a few weeks for delivery, but the service itself is remarkable and the range is bigger than you can find anywhere else.

Also if you buy more than 1 book, you cut the shipping and it become even for favorable.

Every now than then my partner jumps in on the order and gets some ficton for her.

It’s simply the cheaper way to do it.

dvaey 11:58 am 01 Jun 09

Just a few thoughts, where is the money being made/spent here? Maybe now the government has spent squillions of dollars on computers, they should actually use those computers as learning aids? No matter how much money a school spends on their library, it wont compare to the quantity of information available online, in most cases for no charge.

While I understand the need for some books for literary reasons, the idea of simply printing textbooks to make more money every year, seems to defeat the purpose they want to encourage.

If this issue is more about the idea of novels and books in general, people should check out used bookshops and the lifeline bookfair.

I understand some people saying ‘but i dont want a used book, i want a new one’. Would those same people expect the government to subsidise the increasing cost of new cars, because they dont want to buy a non-new one that someone else has touched?

Ozhair 11:46 am 01 Jun 09

Heh, remember when the GST came in, there was the major outcry of “How dare you make beer more expensive!”, and those who were arguing to make books exempt were drowned out by the beer-swillers 😛

For me, I’ll usually try to score a mainstream novel from someplace like K-Mart, where it’s up to $10 cheaper, then go to Borders or Dymocks for more obscure titles. I only use Amazon as a last resort, as I consider their shipping charges a ripoff for the time/cost service you get.

But I have to say, anything that makes books cheaper is a plus 🙂

farnarkler 11:24 am 01 Jun 09

If you’re a good author, you’ll break into the market. Take, for example, Stephen Clarke who self published 200 copies of his book ‘A year in the merde’ which has gone on to be a bestseller and he’s written a few more.

Vonbare 11:23 am 01 Jun 09

Join a library. Growing up I had a very wide selection of books to choose from every single week, when my parent’s took us to the library.

It cuts down on consumerism too – how many books do you really need to buy and keep??

Jim Jones 11:18 am 01 Jun 09

The Brad said :

– Shop at amazon. It often works out cheaper if you are prepared to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive via overseas.

Free (and very fast) shipping!

The Brad 11:12 am 01 Jun 09

There are other cheaper alternatives for parents trying to encourage young voracious readers. (None of this applies to textbooks, which is a totally different scenario, but this post is primarily about fiction)

– buy at second hand book stores
– go to trash and treasure
– Shop at Big W and K-mart, where you can pick up a paperback for 30% off. (I realise they don’t stock a huge amount, but they do have Tim Winton, and popular literature)
– Use E-bay
– Use the library.
– Borrow from a friend, or start a swap club.
– Shop at amazon. It often works out cheaper if you are prepared to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive via overseas.
– If you really really need to buy the latest $50 book, but can’t really afford it, buy it, read it, then sell it on E-bay. If its current, you’ll possibly get 70%+ of your money back.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 11:11 am 01 Jun 09

Online, second hand, fetes, garage sales, on sale, libraries.

Many, many options. If books are too expensive, let the market figure this out.

Jim Jones 11:06 am 01 Jun 09

I buy almost all my books online from England – even with the stupid exchange rate I save whopping great buckets of money.

The protectionist argument is bollocks, no matter who uses it (car manufacturers, agriculturalists, etc.), but it’s particularly so when the commodity you’re flogging can so easily be sourced elsewhere.

jessieduck 11:06 am 01 Jun 09

I hear you! Growing up with a bookshop at my disposal meant that when I left home and I had to actually go and buy books (gasp) it came as quite a shock!

Another law that made books more expensive was the GST- what the f was Howard thinking taxing education like that? The GST nearly killed off small bookshops.

Anything that makes books cheaper for the consumers will be excellent for bookshop owners (like my family’s shop) and a step in the right direction for the industry.

Books are a guilt-free pleasure …except on the hip pocket and removalists backs…

housebound 11:05 am 01 Jun 09

The CT ran this as front page news – Andrew Barr writes a letter to his counterparts in other jurisdictions. I can’t quite see how this gives AB his balls. To me it looks more like AB desperate for something to fill his quota for the front page.

The issue has been well covered already. The intense debate was a long time ago – a year or maybe two – and AB is clearly playing catchup now.

As for the issue itself:
1. libraries are good places for voracious readers, and the ACT interlibrary loan system works well.

2. It’s already very, very hard for new authors to break into the industry. The angst is not about the established authors because they can probably get signed up reasonably easily elsewhere. Nowhere has the ACT Government (now it has jumped on board, it must have thought long and hard about this) indicated how it will encourage the local talent and help wanna-be authors get past this additional barrier to getting published.

astrojax 11:02 am 01 Jun 09

footy jerseys and books, andrew is on a roll! why isn’t this man chief minister? seriously.

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