Online Books Moving Offshore

There’s trouble on the digital frontier of publishing as booksellers Dymocks announced to the ABC that they may move their online business overseas to remain competitive.

Yesterday Dymocks chief executive Don Grover told the ABC:

“It would actually make more sense for us to send books from an overseas location back into Australia and avoid the GST. To give a competitive advantage to overseas web sites of 10 per cent is just unsustainable.”

Dymocks is calling for a level playing field online to control competition with international players. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, for example, is available from Dymocks Digital for A$17.95, while the Australian iBook version retails for A$15.99. For consumers, the big winners are in the US where the Kindle version of the book is available for US$9.99. Amazon’s US$10 has made it difficult for many retailers to compete online

The Federal Government seems reluctant to commit one way or the other. Bill Shorten told the ABC, “The internet’s here to stay. You can’t ban online shopping. The question is, have we got the threshold settings right at this stage?” The government is reportedly looking into whether the tax-free threshold could be lowered and wants to protect jobs in Australia, but nothing concrete has been announced.

Shorten is right about one thing: you can’t control online shopping. Consumers want to buy books online and pay less. According to a US Book Industry Study Group report, readers are buying more books overall, but decreasing how much they’re spending. It’s clear from the report that people are buying more books online and less in print. The challenge for Australian online publishers will be how they match the demands of more books online that cost less.

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