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Andrew Barr goes in to bat for cheaper books

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    By making books artificially more expensive, this outdated and anti-competitive law is making it harder for kids, especially those from less well-off families to buy and read books.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

Bravo!

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.”


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43 Responses to Andrew Barr goes in to bat for cheaper books
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Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:36 am 02 Jun 09

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

I’m sure the leather-elbowed cardigan brigade will still buy local. Last time I checked, though, ten out of the top ten spots on the bestseller list were ‘Twilight’, and an Australian with a Masters in Lesbian Goatskin Drum-making in Medieval Latvia didn’t write it.

ant ant 11:21 pm 01 Jun 09

You can never have too many books. and whenever I think I have enough, there’s Die Hard and Alan Rickman mis-quoting plutarch again and I got off snarling to grab my copy only to find I don’t have THAT particular volume. again. And I resolve to get it, and then forget.

We pay WAY too much for books here, for no good reason.

circusmind circusmind 10:48 pm 01 Jun 09

bigfeet said :

Inappropriate said :

I would have thought book writing would be a global market now? What’s to stop an Australian author being published by a US or UK company?

There is nothing to stop them, but the publisher will want to sell the book to the largest audience which is going to be the American market.

So they will have an editor go through the book and change Australian words to American ones (tap to faucet, torch to flashlight, mum to mom, jelly to Jell-O, rissoles to meatloaf etc), alter the spelling to American (colour/color), remove metric references and alter any Australian slang to something that an American reader will understand.

So the printed book that lands back on our shores for sale is no longer recognisable to the author as his own work, and it not in the Australian vernacular.

Books are frequently released in different markets with various adaptations.

bigfeet bigfeet 10:31 pm 01 Jun 09

Inappropriate said :

I would have thought book writing would be a global market now? What’s to stop an Australian author being published by a US or UK company?

There is nothing to stop them, but the publisher will want to sell the book to the largest audience which is going to be the American market.

So they will have an editor go through the book and change Australian words to American ones (tap to faucet, torch to flashlight, mum to mom, jelly to Jell-O, rissoles to meatloaf etc), alter the spelling to American (colour/color), remove metric references and alter any Australian slang to something that an American reader will understand.

So the printed book that lands back on our shores for sale is no longer recognisable to the author as his own work, and it not in the Australian vernacular.

Thumper Thumper 9:56 pm 01 Jun 09

Second hand book stores and libraries. No more issue Andrew. He should be pushing the further use of public libraries anyway.

That would be because Stanhope closed a lot of the public libraries down.

housebound housebound 9:49 pm 01 Jun 09

For all those Barr supporters, be aware that this bandwagon started rolling – albeit very quietly and slowly – on Howard’s watch. I believe it is the Commonwealth that is responsible for import laws, or is there some other factor here?

NickD NickD 9:41 pm 01 Jun 09

Good on him. The Australian music industry claimed that it would collapse if restrictions against parallel imports were taken away. These were removed and it;s going strong (and would have been in an even worse position to compete with iTunes if CD prices hadn’t gone down first).

Special G Special G 8:06 pm 01 Jun 09

Second hand book stores and libraries. No more issue Andrew. He should be pushing the further use of public libraries anyway.

Scribble Scribble 6:40 pm 01 Jun 09

Not surprisingly, Richard Flanagan has a few thoughts on the matter.

monomania monomania 6:03 pm 01 Jun 09

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

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

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

Cheaper new books, cheaper second hand books, cheaper and possibly a wider range of library books.

That is the market. The market is distorted by the fact that book consumers are being asked to to support the advancement of Australian culture and literature, a task that really belongs to the society as a whole. Government should directly support Australian authors like it does the film industry and we should get books at a fair internationally competitive price.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 5:50 pm 01 Jun 09

here’s an idea for cheap books Andrew – It’s called a library … remember? You closed one down just a while ago moron.

circusmind circusmind 5:23 pm 01 Jun 09

This ‘protecting Australian culture’ argument is such rubbish. If Australians believe that Australian literature is worth buying, they will continue to do so. Stop trying to tell the public what is good for them.

johnboy johnboy 5:08 pm 01 Jun 09

Inappropriate said :

I would have thought book writing would be a global market now? What’s to stop an Australian author being published by a US or UK company?

Well they say it’s because they’re writing uniquely Australian stories of interest only to an Australian audience.

Personally I think a lot of them (not all) aren’t good enough.

Inappropriate Inappropriate 5:04 pm 01 Jun 09

I would have thought book writing would be a global market now? What’s to stop an Australian author being published by a US or UK company?

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 5:04 pm 01 Jun 09

Twice now the quotes have fully italicised my posts. Must be possessed.

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 5:02 pm 01 Jun 09

S4anta said :

Madame Workalot said :

deezagood said :

Jim Jones said :

The Brad said :

.

I would love to buy textbooks second-hand, but find that the latest edition of the book is always difficult to find (and invariably different to the previous year’s course). I find it really frustrating – I end up spending almost $500 a semester on books which, if the previous edition was acceptable, I could spend half that for the same thing.

This would be why education expenses are tax deductable kiddies.

But only if you are working in the industry for which you are studying. As a common garden variety Uni student, expenses aren’t deductable and youth allowance or Ausstudy and a few hours a week in retail doesn’t stretch far when purchasing text books and live the life of an 18yo.

Thumper said :

how many books do you really need to buy and keep??

As many as I can fit in my house.

Agreed, although Mrs Neanderthalsis has other plans though. She doesn’t appreciate what the house of a bibliophile should look like.

deezagood deezagood 4:58 pm 01 Jun 09

Thumper said :

how many books do you really need to buy and keep??

As many as I can fit in my house.

We just got an extra room built … to fit in all of the books!

Thumper Thumper 4:52 pm 01 Jun 09

how many books do you really need to buy and keep??

As many as I can fit in my house.

Granny Granny 2:13 pm 01 Jun 09

Vonbare said :

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??

But libraries have to be able to afford to purchase books also – a decent volume of quality books in good condition. I find it a bit usurous that books can be sold so cheaply everywhere else, and we have to either pay exorbitant postage to get things from overseas – where it can still work out cheaper! Not much use trying to stimulate the Australian economy if everybody is buying overseas. So hell, yes! Give them a bit of competition.

S4anta S4anta 2:03 pm 01 Jun 09

Madame Workalot said :

deezagood said :

Jim Jones said :

The Brad said :

.

I would love to buy textbooks second-hand, but find that the latest edition of the book is always difficult to find (and invariably different to the previous year’s course). I find it really frustrating – I end up spending almost $500 a semester on books which, if the previous edition was acceptable, I could spend half that for the same thing.

This would be why education expenses are tax deductable kiddies.

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