Letter to the editor Prices and availability of British and American books in Australia From Peter Lothian, President, Australian Book Publishers Association May I respond to Mr Fernando Guedes's letter in 6/1 regarding the International Publishers Association's position on copyright in Australia: • IPA deliberations, decisions and correspondence regarding Australia's territorial copyright debate were made without consulting or involving the ABPA (Australian Book Publishers Association). • The ABPA then, as now, represents the interests of local US and UK publishing members that operate in Australia. • The IPA view on the matter was different from the ABPA position. • The Australian govemment recognized these points in its final decision. • In the 1991 amendments, the ABPA achieved pro• tection for and maintenance of the principles of ter• ritorial copyright. The Amendments also achieved the Australian government's oft-stated requirement to improve availability and speed of release of over• seas titles into the Australian market. Granting that the IPA had the best of intentions, their representa• tions and submissions (independent of ABPA involvement) did little if anything to assist in the workable and fair outcome. Coming to the present, the Prices Surveillance Author• ity (PSA) recent caU to fully deregulate and open the Australian market was predictable, but nevertheless dis• appointing. It is three years since the Amendments were passed into a changed Australian Copyright Act. In this report, which was required after three years, the PSA acknowledged that improvements have occuned in the price relativities Australian consumers are paying for overseas originated books. This is particularly the case for bestsellers, which have dropped from a differential of nearly 20% to just 3% in the period 1988 through to 1994- The report was concerned about some market segments, eg, tertiary texts and professional books where price relativities did not show substantial improvement. The PSA argues that in calling for an open market it wants to keep pressure on publishers and distributors and says the industry is robust enough to stand full competi• tion, ie supply to Australian consumers firom any source whatsoever, with the obvious disqualification of any pirated editions. In rejecting this recommendation the ABPA is arguing: • That the 1991 amendments are working well as acknowledged by the PSA. Price relativities have improved and availability and speed of release of overseas titles are faster. • The current provisions safeguard the copyright inter• ests of authors and publishers; an open market does not. • The Act enables booksellers to import direct from any legal source if publishers don't respond promptly or efficiently to the 30-day/90-day time constraints contained in the Act. • Where booksellers are importing titles direct from UK or US publishers or wholesalers, all evidence gained so far shows that prices do not fall. This is due to the cost structures required by booksellers to operate profitably. • Australian book exports are beginning to develop substantially. To be respected as part of an intema• tional book publishing community, the Australian industry needs to adhere to a similar trading envi• ronment to that of its major trading parmers. • The major bookselling chains in Australia (Angus and Robertson Bookworld, Dymocks, Collins Book• sellers and the Campus Booksellers Association) have made submissions to the PSA essentially sup• porting the status quo. The ABPA position has received a generally favourable response through the Australian media although there have been some significant differing viewpoints expressed by individual journalists who favour an open market, deregulated book environment. Representa• tions have been made to government to reinforce the ABPA position that no additional changes should be made to the existing Copyright Act. 106 LOGOS 6/3 © WHURR PUBLISHERS 1996
Logos – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1995
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