The reasons are many and have been discussed by the general media with their usual authority and know-all attitude but there is more! 

Cost - it is true that retail prices in the USA, Canada and the UK are cheaper than Australia! Why? Well the reason is simple - in the good old days, we did not have online stores and publishers could charge what they liked! Growing up a long time ago I was always puzzled by the price differential and now everyone has the opportunity to source from the cheapest supplier.

AS of July 2011 the publishers in Australia representing foreign books and also right publishers are reviewing their pricing and generally, it will be cheaper than USA, Canada and the UK! They are scared to death that they will be wiped out of the market leaving the market to up and coming publishers such as Pascal and Blake to name some of the hundreds waiting in the wings. Books are printed for about 1/10 of their sale price! So there is plenty of margin and the costs of author royalties etc can be covered easily. I have been reviewing our current price lists and there are substantial adjustments downwards under way.

Discounting - the foreign webstores can only be a certain price and then they are losing so it will be a slow gravitation back to the Australian stores - online and physical. Some UK stores operate with 'free' freight - well nothing is free and they are paying and using their purchasing discounts to offset. Generally, the rents and the wages in Australia per sale are more expensive - the Australian malls' rents and the retail wages are twice what a UK business would have to pay so there is little likelihood of discounting a lot or otherwise you sell a line of remainders and a small line of bulk items. 

Webstore and the book shop - well the webstore of today is a marked contrast with their exciting online presence - it is a big tin shed somewhere in cheap areas of industrial zones employing cheap warehouse labour and not a pleasant place to visit let alone browse. The contrasts cannot be any different so the walk-in bookstore is going to be costing more due to the mall rents, retail staff and the fixtures and fittings.  If you are seeking a specific title or subject - well the online store is the answer but to review the content and check if it is worth the purchase - the bookstore is the place to be!

E-Books - these are being released in certain areas tentatively - once again, the publishers are scared of annihilation as what happened to the music industry. And there are good reasons - any digital content not secured is pirated immediately! E-books represent some part of the market and can be downloaded easily and give you good quality at a price which is not related to the costs but is usually, acceptable! These downloads fulfil some parts of the reading requirements.  The numbers are impressive as far as downloading numbers but paper copies will be needed for some areas and these will still be used for specific requirements. I do believe this is reducing book shop sales for specific sections such as IT, travel and knowledge topics.

Freight - we have a warehouse in New Zealand and can use Fastways and also NZ Post - the price in AUD$ are literally 1/3 of costs in Australia. Why? Well it is all not due to wages and distance - this is Australia Post's mantra! NZ Post are leaner and better managed. Australia has the most expensive postage in the world - why? To understand why Australia Post is so pathetic at containing prices and being competitive we need to look no further than the ownership which makes it a government organisation with poor management structures and more interested in being political rather than a business. I feel very sorry for the hard-working reps and staff of Australia Post as they watch this great institution sink below the waves due to lousy guidance and second rate executives. If it is was run like Fastways or any other freight business - it would be back in business in no time!

A parliamentary committee is reviewing the postage rates for books and is looking to change the rates for this class of parcel - this is a short term help to the industry but we need Australia Post to get its act together otherwise we will always be burdened with uncompetitive rates.

Conclusion:

Competitive pricing for books by publishers and normal freight prices will mean Australia will be back in business with their online stores! The retail store environment is still reasonable for a quality range and service - look no further than Dymocks stores! Our store's takings continue to grow whilst our online store grows monthly! We get groups of mums and kids looking for educational content and parents chasing specialist titles for their kids in high schools. I am very excited about publishing and learning content and remain very optimistic! Our prices are competitive worldwide as we sell what is a specialist line to schools, parents and teachers! They cannot buy better anywhere in the world due to our buying power and range selection!

The media mix of digital and print will depend upon purpose - no size fits all! The retail mix between online store and shop will change and it will depend upon the service and product offerings and once again, there is no reason why you will not browse in a store and do so, online! You can buy your Nescafe or you can buy LaVazza - both have a purpose and place!

You as the consumer should choose wisely and base your decision on benefit for your limited resources - there is no guilt trip from whining retailers needed! We as a business are 'camp followers' and will adapt as we must to manage your requirements in learning and education - you can meet us online or in store on the Gold Coast!

Thanks for reading and look forward to your comments!

Rob Watts

Managing Director