(by Leyla Bhathela – Australian Printer)
The Federal Government looks set to end the restrictions on parallel book imports, with unknown repercussions for Australian book printers.
The change to the current long running situation which blocks imports of books for 14 days following publication is part of the Harper review into cutting competition restrictions. Harper says the parallel book restrictions lead to higher book prices for consumers. The government says reducing trader barriers increases competition which they say is beneficial both to consumers and to the economy.
The cost benefits of eliminating parallel import restrictions are hotly debated, according to the Productivity Commission Australian books on average cost 35 per cent more than those in the US, and former competition chief Alan Fells claimed Aussie book readers were being ‘grossly’ overcharged. However Australian publishers, authors and bookstores say this is not the case, and claim that prices could rise. They also say it will have a severely detrimental; effect on launching new Australian authors.
Neither Ben Jolly from Griffin Press nor Cliff Brigstocke from Opus was available for comment, neither was Jason Allen, CEO at Printing Industries, which has consistently campaigned against ending the restrictions.
The last time ending parallel imports was seriously touted was 2009, with the Bendigi MP leading a successful fight against the then Labor government’s plant to end them. Since then the major Australian book printers have been making strategic moves into short run digital on demand printing, which is a market less susceptible to overseas competition.
Griffin has installed a new HP T series high speed inkjet webs and various sheetfed digital colour printers, McPherson’s also has an HP T series press and various sheetfed digital systems, Ligare has an Impika high speed inkjet and a Fuji Xerox 2800 high speed inkjet, whole SOS has both Fuji Xerox and Kodak Prosper inkjet webs and various sheetfed digital printers.
Nonetheless if the government does finally end the parallel book import restrictions it will be a challenge for the domestic book printing industry, especially the two majors for offset book production; Griffin, owned by PMP, and McPherson’s, owned by Opus.