1. I don’t trust you. Emailing a customer mailing list with your political agenda is dodgy. Also dodgy is pretending to be something other than a group of chain retailers lobbying the government to change the law so you can increase your profits.
2. We don’t need to change copyright law to buy cheaper books. Readers can buy online. Not only do we take advantage of cheaper prices overseas, but we don’t have to pay GST. The Book Depository doesn’t even charge for shipping. I don’t see you lobbying to have the GST removed from books, or to have the government enforce the GST on overseas companies. Maybe it can’t. That’s not my fault.
3. Not everyone buys books according to price. The experience of being in a bookstore is what I want when I go into a bookstore. Otherwise, I’d buy online. I like seeing a book, touching it, reading the blurb and maybe a few pages. I can’t do that online.
4. I never find the books I want in your stores. Actually, this isn’t quite true. K-mart and Target are great for Blazes and some of the more popular romance titles. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that Dymocks keeps shunting its romance section farther and farther into the store. Maybe romance readers aren’t buying from you, but since I hardly ever find what I do want in stock, I’m not surprised.
5. I can’t have a decent conversation about books in your store. The reason I buy books from Galaxy, despite often having to pay a few dollars more, is the staff. They’re friendly, they recommend books, and they don’t treat their customers like cattle. I tried Booktopia because of my long conversation with the General Manager on ebook readers. I ordered over $100 worth of books from Romance Direct because Jill, the owner, bent over backwards to get me a copy of Angel’s Blood. At Dymocks, I had to travel to THREE STORES looking for Travels with Herodotus only to find out each time that they were sold out.
6. Your ebook reader and ebook pricing sucks. You launched digital books and offered the Iliad for almost $900 with some ebooks costing over $10 to download. Good god, do you think your customers are idiots? To add to the insult, you shoved the Romance section in your George St store to make way for the digital book display. It’s almost impossible to get to the books if you have a pram or use a wheelchair.
7. Your price comparisons are misleading. I’m not sure how you got the figures you quote in your submission to the Productivity Commission, but the draft report acknowledges that there is insufficient data on the book sector. The Australian Booksellers Association, in its submission, states that it “holds no reliable data on price comparisons”.
8. You have no idea if removing parallel importation laws will reduce prices. When Borders and A&R are pricing above the RRP for some books, forgive me for not believing that booksellers are in the business of lowering their prices. And in my chat with Tony from Booktopia at the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I asked point blank if he had a position on parallel importation. His reply? “It doesn’t matter.”
9. Books are not your business. Target, K-mart and the other general retail stores in your consortium aren’t in the business of selling books. It’s just another commodity for them. Well, books aren’t a commodity for me. And if they were, I’d switch to ebooks because I could get them faster and more cheaply. Dymocks’s acquisition of Heathy Habits tells me that you are, in fact, thinking of moving out of the book business. Why is it that the Australian Booksellers Association supports the preservation of territorial copyright and you don’t?
10. Your letter is misleading and contains half-truths. You claim that “Under the Dymocks proposal, copyright will still be protected; authors will still receive royalties and publishers will still be paid for the rights they hold.” You don’t differentiate between territorial copyrights, which are associated with different royalties, and you fail to mention that the US and the UK enforce laws to preserve their own territorial copyrights. You conveniently ignore the single use provisions and never mention it once in your submission to the Productivity Commission. In your submission, you invoke the New Zealand experience, yet fail to acknowledge that there many people in the book industry consider it a failure in terms of protecting copyright and reducing prices. By your own admission, the figures you cite are ambiguous. Yet the Canadian example (cited by the ABA in its submission) shows that regulatory forces can in fact be used to help lower the cost of books (pp 9-10).
In your letter you state: “Dymocks believes that the Australian book industry should be driven by the Australian book buyer”. If only that were true.