Parallel import rules: How the ALP/Greens oppose cheap books

by on 31 January, 2011

Over the weekend, I bought five new hardcover books plus series 1-5 of The Wire plus series 5 of Boston Legal from an English web retailer.  These items came to a mere £86 (about $140).  The most expensive item was The Wire, which cost £39. 

I took a look at Dymocks bestseller list and I did a comparison with (I have converted the figures to Australian dollars)

  • Vampire Academy 06 Last Sacrifice (No. 1 on Dymocks bestseller list) – $19.95 (Dymocks), $11.80 (Amazon)
  • Life by Keith Richards (No 2. on Dymocks bestseller list) – $49.99 (Dymocks), $12.80 (Amazon)
  • The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry (No 3. on Dymocks bestseller list) – $39.95 (Dymocks), $12.45 (Amazon)

Even when including postage, purchases are substantially cheaper. 

In Australia, I've given up purchasing books or DVDs from my local store.  With services such as The Book Depository and Amazon, it became apparent that I could order from overseas (without paying postage in many cases) and I would still be saving. 

Why does Australia have one of the least competitive publishing markets in the world?

In the early-2000s, the Howard Government removed 'parallel import' restrictions on CDs and many other products.  'Parallel imports' refer to the imports of genuine products at a lower price which are produced overseas without the permission of the intellectual property producer.   The effect in the CD market was to push prices downwards (Have a look at Peter Costello's article on the issue and The Age on the parallel importation of liquor). 

The prohibition on parallel imports still applies to books.  The Productivity Commission recommended that parallel import restrictions be removed from books.  Typically, this has not happened yet because Labor/Greens refuses to support legislation removing restrictions. If you want to read more, Tim Wilson at the IPA wrote a paper on this topic several years ago.



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