I haven’t managed to twist anyone’s arms for Mondayitis today and there’s a new player on the Australian secondhand books market making things much harder for everyone so I’ve decided a diatribe/rant is in order.
It’s been getting increasingly harder to sell books in Australia. Thanks to the UPU we have agreements with various countries’ postal services to send their parcels for a certain price once they hit our shores, despite it actually costing far more. This has been getting increasingly challenging over the past few years since companies like Book Depository started up, they are receiving large discounts from Royal Mail to post outside the UK which is being very heavily subsidised by AusPost once they hit Australia, meaning they can offer free post. Books are also much cheaper over the UK as they have more people and when you have a bigger market you can negotiate lower prices, so it’s possible to buy a brand new book from them and have it shipped here for less than our bookshops can buy it wholesale.
There are some very big players on eBay. People like BordersOnline, The Nile Australia, Booktopia Books, Oodals Store, Angus and Robertson Outlet and so many others with more coming onboard regularly. Most of these are dropshippers and don’t actually have the books on hand so they have to be shipped from somewhere outside the country. Many listings show they’ve dropped the publisher’s catalogues directly into eBay without bothering to add anything new, postage time can sometimes be rather long and far too often the item is poorly packed or out of stock and you don’t find out till some time later.
Add to this mix is World Of Books Australia, a new player on the market. This is the first secondhand book megastore on eBay and they’re also trying it out on the web with their website. They collect books from charities and at this time they’re only collecting from overseas and haven’t started collecting from Australian charities. They say they’re actually buying them but I do wonder if they’re giving the charities good value for money. As with most of the other companies I’ve mentioned above I don’t believe they’re paying GST or tax to the ATO so they’re virtually operating in Australia but not playing by our taxation rules.
Today there are almost 9 million book listings on eBay. The Nile Australia has 1.8 million listings, Booktopia has 1.5 million and World of Books Australia a paltry 500,000 books. Bear in mind the first two specialise in new books and World of Books in secondhand books, that’s a lot of books. This makes it hard for us small people to be visible on eBay. On their listings World of Books Australia state the book is in Wahroonga, NSW but that location turns out to be a P.O. Box for a solicitor (it must be one crowded P.O. Box) while sending it from the UK by so called “Express Post”. They don’t even have a photo or a proper description for the book so you’ve very little idea until it arrives if it’s going to be what you want.
I don’t mind people buying some books from overseas as sometimes the book you want just isn’t in the country but when there’s plenty of people selling here who actually have the book on hand and don’t have to have it shipped 15,000 kms then I begin to get a bit irate. It’s impacting not just my sales, but sales of my friends and so many bookshops both new and used. It’s definitely having an impact on the book economy here and I worry about the future if we don’t have a book economy here because everything’s coming from overseas. Just imagine, no bookshops for either new books or secondhand books, where will you browse? Not a future I want for my country.