On ABC RN’s Late Night Live (1 Dec) there was a rather subdued discussion with Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe and Mark Rubbo from Readings about the Australian book industry. They both sounded very pessimistic calling this last year one of the worst for the industry. While there was some attempt to finger the move to digital books with the drop in business, the real culprit, it appears, is the huge rise in the Australian dollar making it much, much cheaper to purchase print books online from overseas book sites (OK we’re talking Amazon).
Whereas, in the past, the postage paid on Amazon purchases somewhat evened out the price paid, now the differential is so great it is much more economic. A US or UK book is currently pretty much half the price or less of the same book published here. I can see this would depress Henry Rosenbloom as Scribe, like Text, are good at spotting quality overseas titles to publish here, and this must be an economic mainstay for them. Scribe, for example, publishes Norman Doidge’s very popular The Brain that Changes Itself. (Available as an epub, I notice, from the Dymocks website).
A smidgin of light in the gloomy atmosphere of the LNL discussion came when they let slip that Scribe and Readings were going to work on developing a site to sell ebooks. It wasn’t made clear what form this would take but they did mention value-adding on a portal the way an independent bookstore assists and directs its customers. I also like the idea (not talked about on LNL) of in-store downloads – where you could go in and browse around the print books, choose what you want and then have the genuine choice to buy an e-edition or a p-edition, and, in that scenario the bookshop would get a cut as the download hub. LNL podcast here.