From The Age:
The internet and e-books were meant to signal the death of the physical book. That didn’t happen. The plight of authors is another matter. As they face a perfect storm of relentless commercial pressures and repeated attacks by the federal government, the outlook for authors and their readers, and for Australia’s literary culture, has never been bleaker.
Recent surveys in Britain, the United States and Australia have revealed a serious slump in the income that authors receive from their writing. In Australia, authors have seen their average income from writing decrease from about $22,000 in the early 2000s to less than $13,000 in 2015. For many authors, that means they can no longer earn a livelihood from their work. It’s particularly worrying for young writers, who may abandon their craft altogether. And that’s bad news for readers, who could miss out on the work of our future Tim Wintons and Richard Flanagans.
It’s come to this partly because of market pressures. The advent of Amazon provides part of the answer. It carved out an almost monopolistic space for itself by selling books at a loss. The company has rarely made a profit, with its shareholders seemingly content to finance the remorseless expansion of this retail behemoth. The assumption behind their patience is that Amazon will one day be able to use its market power to raise prices and reap the resulting profits. In the meantime, authors have been the victims of their strategy.
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It’s not only because of Amazon that there has been a drop of about 30 per cent in the average price of books in Australia. The collapse of Borders and Angus and Robertson saw their place taken by discount department stores, like Target, Big W and Kmart, which added to the downward pressure on prices. As prices fall, so too do the royalties paid to authors. And the effect has been exacerbated by publishers reducing their print runs and consequently reducing the advances they pay to authors. The arrival of digitisation and e-books might have been expected to benefit authors, but the benefits have mostly flowed to publishers and to the Amazons of the world.
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Now Malcolm Turnbull has declared that he wants to remove the restrictions on the parallel importation of books, which has prevented for decades the dumping of overseas editions onto the Australian market where a local edition is already in print.
Link to the rest at The Age and thanks to Valerie for the tip.