Protecting our Book Industry and our Jobs
The Australian government has set an agenda to boost competition and encourage "innovation" by recommending changes to the way books are published.
Currently, Australian industry has "first option" to publish, print and hold copyright for Australian books - these legal protections exist in nearly every country around the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
Our current protections mean that Australia has a thriving book industry - from authors through to publishers, printers, and booksellers.
However under the Government's proposed changes, this would all collapse and our copyright would be handed off to overseas printing and publishing companies, meaning books would no longer be made in Australia.
The Australian book industry employs 20,000 people including writers, editors, publishers, printers and booksellers. Australian writing is Australia’s greatest cultural and free trade success story generating $2B in revenue.
If the Government's plan proceeds, we would give away intellectual property rights without gaining any reciprocal rights with the world’s biggest English book-creating nations – the USA and the UK – that maintain their own home market rights.
Would these changes mean cheaper books?
Despite some people claiming this would lead to cheap books, there is no evidence to show this would actually be the case.
Australian books prices have fallen by a third in real terms in the last decade, and are now similar in price to comparable markets. Many popular titles are offered at a 35% discount by large retail chains.
In fact, we risk mirroring New Zealand, who got rid of their industry protects in the late 1990s. Today, their books are more expensive than Australian books, and there is less diversity of titles. In addition, the changes hit the New Zealand printing industry where thousands of jobs were lost.
Australia would no longer be playing on a level playing field - and their is no guarantee of cheaper books for consumers.
In fact, it is likely that we would lose jobs and industry - with no material benefits to consumers.
The real impact of changing the law
The Australian publishing right will be devalued. Investment in Australian works and Australian authors will be less attractive and more risky.
There will be:
- fewer Australian authors and fewer Australian books published;
- less diversity of books available to Australian readers;
- jobs lost in Australian publishing, bookselling and printing;
- lower royalties for Australian authors;
- less promotion of Australian authors and trade in their rights internationally; and
- further reductions in the independent bookselling sector.
What's at Stake?
Publishing and book printing is the most successful creative industry in Australia.
It does not depend on subsidies. It is not protected by tariffs.
It is successful because it is a consumer-facing industry that is deeply engaged with its market.
- More than 7,000 new books published annually
- 20,000 jobs in the printing industry
- $2 billion in revenue
- Publishers directly invest in Australian writers for trade (non-educational) books, and their promotion is $120 million per annum
- More than 1,000 businesses in Australia are engaged in publishing, employing over 4,000 people. Many are small businesses.
- Over 300,000 Australians attend more than 100 literary festivals annually
- Australia has the 14th largest book printing and publishing industry in the world
- Australia has the largest independent bookseller sector in the English-language market