Myth number 3: Book prices are expensive in Australia because publishers are evil money-grabbing, faceless conglomerates who want to take over the world.
This is a complicated one to unpack. Firstly, there’s the issue that a lot of book prices are left over from a twenty year-old economy where the Australian dollar was 40 or 50 cents to the American greenback. The book industry is also one of those rare, strange beasts where the identical product that was released twenty years ago is still being made and put out into the market, and the truth which everyone knows but few people have been willing to articulate is, well, things never really ever get cheaper. Which leads me to my second point: things have never really been cheap in Australia. We’re isolated, so we have to factor freight costs onto everything we import, and our population is tiny, which means we can’t produce in bulk and get the same wholesale discounts as the other bigger consumers. Our food, rent, and wages are all three times, if not more, than the dollar-equivalent in the US, another as a relic of that 1990s economy, though I’ve heard time and again the comment that the quality of things here is better, which could all be placebo effect, but the quality – the physical quality – of books certainly is. So many of my imported books are either printed on clumsy, public toilet paper-esque pages, or the thinnest Bible paper. I understand this may not factor in for a lot of people – they’re not buying a book for the paper stock, after all, but for the words and ideas contained therein – but it’s definitely a factor as to why locally produced and printed books cost more.
Thirdly, we are one of the only countries in the world to tax our books. The GST, that deceptaively doe-eyed 10%, knocked the wind out of the bookselling industry for years. Yeah, I know, anticlimax, but people never seem to factor this in either.
Remember when there was this whole movement about buying Australian products because even though they might be a more expensive, you were supporting local industry and jobs and your own economy, yadda yadda yadda? I must be getting old …
Myth number 4: The music industry went digital, survived piracy and hasn’t completely died, so what the fuck are you guys afraid of?