Monday, March 25, 2013

Adventures in the book trade #6

Last Thursday Stuff ran a story on a campaign by Booksellers NZ to close the loophole whereby New Zealand consumers can order books from Amazon and the Book Depository and not have to pay GST, which means that the government loses tax revenue and bookshops lose sales. (The full story from Booksellers NZ is here; the same is true of CDs, DVDs, sporting equipment, car parts etc.)

By this morning there were 108 comments, almost all of them saying essentially that booksellers can get stuffed and that Amazon and the Book Depository are the way to go. For example:
If they cant compete then they should just close. Small stores are doing fine, sourcing their own stuff. Its just the big chains that manage to sell things for 4x the amazon or book depositary price even when on “sale” that are complaining. And you know what? Good riddance to them. Useless.
And this:
Retailers should use their wholesale buying power and economy bulk shipping rates to sell items in this country at a competitive rate. If they can’t beat the cost of a consumer buying a book overseas at a retail price and paying shipping and handling for each item, they are doing it wrong.
But booksellers don’t set prices, publishers do. The bookseller is simply the public face of the book trade. We all know our local bookseller but who can name the local CEOs of the big four (soon to be three) multinationals? This is why booksellers cop the flak: they are visible.

But the local publishers don’t have a lot of freedom either. There is some flexibility in the system – it has happened that the NZ retail price is lower than the international one – but they have to buy in their stock at whatever price head office charges them, so the retail price in New Zealand is set by people in England or Australia. They are the ones responsible for, say, Dan Brown’s forthcoming novel Inferno selling here for $50 (14 May is the world-wide release date: you’ll just have to be patient) when you can pre-order it now from the Book Depository for $30. That price differential has nothing to do with our booksellers – they are unhappy about it too. As one told me, “The real gouging of New Zealand book-buyers is going on in London.”

And here are some actual NZ booksellers, talking to actual NZ authors.

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