Bookmarks: News and views from the book industry

The shake-ups that have characterised the book publishing and selling sectors for the last few years continue. This week brought interesting news for Australians from Amazon and Book Depository and a cautionary tale from the UK.

In the UK, The Independent quoted research from accountancy firm Moore Stephens saying that publisher insolvencies in the UK rose 58% over the past year. In the 2014-2015 financial year, 128 UK publishers went out of business. In 2013-2014 year, 81 publishers went out of business. They are mostly smaller publishers. Moore Stephens restructuring and insolvency partner David Elliott said, ‘The fall in the value of sales for physical books is larger than the growth of ebooks, and this is a worrying trend for publishers that are still dependent on paper (books) for their profits,’ said Moore.

We have seen a number of ebook only publishers go insolvent this year so in my opinion it is not just publishers who have traditionally published paperbacks that are struggling. The ebook market is very competitive and all small publishers battle to get enough return on books to maintain the cash flow required to keep publishing a forward list and stay in business. Any author working with a small publisher should cultivate a good relationship with their editor/ publisher and stay on top of their royalty payments so that if things do   turn sour, she is in a good position to get her rights back and consider other options.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Amazon has signed a seven-year lease for new premises at 2 Park Street in the Sydney CBD which are almost four times the size of their old office. One can speculate from this that Amazon is gearing up to run a local distribution centre and not just the cloud-based services they currently offer. Will they stick to books or offer the wide variety of goods they sell in the US? Only time will tell.

Book Depository, another Amazon-owned company, has begun dispatching books from within Australis. Deliver times are one to two business days for metropolitan Victoria; two to three days to metropolitan NSW and South Australia; two to four business days for dispatch to metropolitan Queensland and Tasmania; three to five days to metropolitan WA; and three to six days to the Northern Territory.

Local publishers who have signed up with Book Depository (in opposition to the call from the Australian Booksellers Association to stand behind local bookshops) currently all seem to be those distributed by United Book Distributors, owned by Penguin Random House. They include Penguin Random House as well as Hardie Grant, Text, Allen & Unwin, Affirm Press, Black Inc and Scribe. Affirm Press has previously stated its opposition to the establishment of Book Depository and Amazon in Australia as they have ‘little regard for Australian publishers, authors and retailers‘ according to sales and marketing manager Keiran Rogers. He has told Books+Publishing that they are investigating whether the UBD deal means Affirm Press books are being distributed without their knowledge and what their options are to control supply.

Booktopia CEO Tony Nash said it was business as usual for them. ‘This system, with the product being sold to Australians and being shipped within Australia does require the seller to pay GST… We know they are there and we simply focus on doing the best job we can for Australian book buyers,’ he said.



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  1. In the U.S., the major publishing houses are holding their real numbers close to the vest and, at the same time, many are still trying to say that ebooks are losing ground. Meanwhile, with the advent of easy self publishing and the increasing popularity of POD, small print publishers are folding left and right here too but new opportunists spring up minute by minute to try and get a cut of the pie from authors who would rather not be bothered with anything but writing.

    • Interesting observations Anne. I am afraid that the world of technology and the increasing downsizing of staff in large companies is going to mean that authors are simply not going to be able to survive and succeed if they don’t want to be bothered with anything but writing. Even if you are fortunate enough to be published by a major traditional publishing house, if you really want to give your book its best chance at being seen, bought and read, you need to self-promote. All you have to do is consider the ratio of publicists to authors to realise this truth.

  2. Just when I thought things had settled down, they start changing again.
    Really interesting/scary reading. Coincidentally, I received an email from Amazon today, with a special offer if I was signed on to their page. I could buy up to six new release fiction titles for only $1.99 each, ahead of the official release. Very interesting development.

    • Yeah, and if you do, you’ll soon discover that the .au site offers considerably less than the US site. I’ve been there. Don’t do it.

    • Hi Ebony, I have to agree with Meredith. I am also holding onto my Amazon US account. Much more choice in general although sometimes you lose out on Australian titles. In that case, I tend to go paperback.


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