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Book Import Scheme Remains Unchanged

Issued: March 01 2010
The Australian Government has elected not to change the country’s regulatory regime for books, despite recommendations from the Productivity Commission that parallel import restrictions and other territorial protection for book publication had resulted in higher prices for books in Australia, which generated significant profits for overseas authors and publishers and were paid for by Australian consumers.

The commission also said that the import restrictions were of limited use, as they make no distinction between books of “high and low cultural value.”

According to lawyers at Blake Dawson, writing in the firm’s quarterly IP newsletter, the Productivity Commission recommended that the repeal of import restrictions be coupled with improved subsidy arrangements targeted at Australian works, but that the Government has also decided not to increase government assistance.

“The Government considered replacing parallel import restrictions with a price capping system, but ultimately rejected this on the basis that it would ‘increase regulation with questionable effects on book prices,’ ” wrote Blake Dawson lawyer Rachel Kay.

Kay says various “compromise” proposals were also considered, involving reductions in the length of the 30-day publication rule and 90-day resupply rule. “Ironically, in opting to preserve a system of governmental regulation, the Government has based its rationale on market forces, arguing that repealing [parallel import restrictions] is unlikely to materially affect availability of books in Australia given the increasingly intense competition generated by online booksellers such as Amazon and e-book technology such as Kindle Books,” wrote Kay.

The Government report indicated that “if books cannot be made available in a timely fashion and at a competitive price, customers will opt for online sales and e-books.”

Are more Australians turning to libraries for their reading material? Import restrictions have resulted in higher prices for books in Australia.