The book industry in Australia

I’m not actually certain if that’s a good heading for this, it’s going to be a general rant with no particular theme in mind. I’ve been catching up on some goings on in the industry in some forums and reading what other people have to say. It’s going to be an interesting time and I have no answers.

I understand the price of everything is going up due to the recent spate of natural disasters and the political challenges in the Middle East. Australia Post recently put their prices up, they’re going up again on the 4th of July with a review every three months. I’ve managed to absorb the previous three price rises but I had no choice this time, I had to put my prices up. If I find on posting that I’ve overcharged someone by a very large amount then I do try to refund part of the postage price, it’s easy if they’ve paid by Paypal. I’ll be reassessing the prices on each price rise and will see what I can do to absorb the rise, but it will be hard.

REDGroup, the owners of Borders and Angus & Robertson will stop ordering books from publishers on the 1st of June. I can’t begin to speculate on the impact this will have on the industry. When one of your biggest buyers stops buying from you what do you do? Especially when you know there’s no-one in the market place who has a hope of taking their place. Such a big challenge, so many long term repercussions.

There’s so much happening on eBay in the book department. Several months ago they changed the pricing structure to make it easier for people to list books. If you have a basic store costing $19.95 per month you can list as many books as you want for 5c per listing per month, the final value fee is not too good at 9.9% but if sales are down then at least you can list heaps more for very little. The listing fees were too enormous before (I think they were 40c per listing per month) and it doesn’t take many months before you’ve lost the price of the book in listing fees, but 5c is pretty good and you can list a $10 book for two years and still make a profit. The problem is they’ve opened up the market to some pretty big companies and between them they’ve listed almost 7 million books just on eBay Australia alone. We have a very small population and I’m not sure we can sell enough books to make that number of listings viable. One of the problems is that these large companies are mostly in the UK and they can get some very good deals with Royal Mail to send their parcels outside of the UK. In almost every case they can mail the brand new book to your house for less than the price you can pay at the shops, and that includes postage. I know, I sell pre-loved books and therefore that’s a totally different market, but with 7 million listings how is the average buyer going to find my book? If they know the name of the book then it’s easy, but if they just want to browse then they’re going to stop after a couple of pages. The other problem with eBay is that to accommodate these large sellers they’ve changed the search function, you can’t search by category any more. If you want to search by fantasy then you’re out of luck unless your seller has filled in the item specifics and it takes time to fill in the item specifics. It was much easier when there were second level categories that the seller had to choose in order to list their books.

So many book sellers have found that in order to make money you have to sell on several different platforms. You can’t just have a website and expect to make money on that, you also have to sell on eBay and other online auction sites, some people even sell at markets. I have a website and sell on eBay, I also write for The Bookshop Blog and do some virtual admin work for some people, I’ll also be a Census Collector in the up and coming election. It’s leaving me pushed for time, but it is exciting. I do make posting orders a priority.