Fighting for Author Rights Down Under

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Many of you may not be aware but there’s a battle brewing down under – pitching Aussie publishers and authors against the chain booksellers and the government – all in the name of cheaper books. Now as a reader I am all for cheaper books, particularly in Australia where book prices are (in my opinion) ridiculously high (typically about $45 for hardbacks; $25 for paperbacks).

Recently the Australian government asked the productivity commission to evaluate the current restrictions on the parallel importation of books into Australia. Basically this law protects publishers and authors who hold the Australian rights to a particular book from competition by suppliers of foreign editions of that book. On July 14th the productivity commission released its report. The recommendation? Screw territorial copyright for Australian authors and publishers. Although the commission backed away from full abolition of parallel importation restrictions they recommended that territorial copyright last only 12 months from date of first publication. I’ll spare you all the boring legal details, suffice to say that if this recommendation is accepted and the copyright laws in Australia are amended it could have significant ramifications for the Australian publishing industry as well as Australian authors.

Many of my fellow mystery and thriller writers in Australia have warned that they may lose their Australian publishers all together, see a significant decline in income and feel that it will be even harder for Australian writers to get published…all so that the big chain book stores can import cheaper books (even with no guarantee that they will actually drop book prices to consumers as a result). Sounds a little like madness…and it is yet another reminder of how precarious our author rights can be. It’s hard enough to get published, even harder still to make a living at it – and without full copyright protection, even harder to hold on to the slim opportunities we have…

So this is Monday’s rant – and a reminder for us all to support the Aussie writers down under who are facing this very real threat to their livelihoods. If you want to learn more here’s a link to a great website: It also provides perspectives from authors such as Tom Keneally and thriller writer Michael Rowbotham.

And one question – How do you think places like Australia should go about trying to balance the demands for lower book prices (and they get no argument from me on this) and the desire to maintain a thriving local publishing and writing industry?

How much is a good read worth these days?

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

An article in yesterday’s New York Time’s entitled “Steal this book (for $9.99)” caught my eye, especially the first line: “Just how much is a good read worth?” and the story of how readers were boycotting the Kindle version David Baldacci’s latest thriller “First Family’ for being priced around $15 (some $5 more than the majority of Kindle e-books were selling for). The article went on to discuss fears in the publishing industry that e-books cannibalize higher-price print sales (rather like the flood of cheap houses onto a real estate market) and that Amazon’s low price point sets a precedent in the e-book market that may be unsustainable. Offsetting this is the evidence, however, that e-book purchasers are buying more books now than they ever did as print book buyers. This is because of the ease with which they can download the books and (presumably) by the lower price point.
This all got me thinking – what is a ‘good read’ worth these days? Should a bestselling author be able to command a premium e-book price? (though I’m guessing Baldacci’s publisher may be regretting that decision!) Does Amazon’s “loss leader’ mentality in which it basically subsidizes the $9.99 Kindle book create the perception that e-books are only worth $10 or less? And what does that mean to consumer perceptions of the cost of trade paperbacks or hardbacks?
I remember talking to an English publisher last year who said the market in the UK had become horrendous because the majority of books were being sold in supermarkets very cheaply or at chain stores as part of “Buy three get one free” and “Buy two for the price of one” kind of deals. Her argument was that in the UK at least this marketing tactic had made many consumers question the original price of books (their reasoning being, well, if I get two for the price of one shouldn’t they have been originally half the list price anyway?). It also created the perception that books were over priced (God forbid!). I wonder, in the e-book market, will Amazon’s pricing have a similar effect?

So what are you willing to pay for a good read these days? Would you pay more than $9.99 for an author you loved on Kindle? Does the cost of an e-book make you less inclined to plunk down more money for the paper version? As e-books command more and more of the market what effect will their price have on us readers and (poor sods that we are) writers? Is it a slippery slope or just a storm in a teacup???