Getting ripped off is a daily part of the Australian experience: the price for living in the one remaining OECD nation that’s not a complete economic basket case is that we pay well over the odds for the same products as our friends in other countries. Sometimes it is graspy, tax-hungry governments jacking up the price of something for our own individual or collective good: The family auto cost us a good deal more than it would have elsewhere in the world, thanks to import duties and a “luxury car tax” implemented to teach us to buy Australian and stop being such a bunch of show-offy Pricks. A bottle of gin costs twice as much in Sydney as it does in New York, presumably to discourage Australians from becoming a bunch of soaks. And let’s not even get started on iTunes.
Books, too, are ridiculously expensive, and much of the blame for that falls on Australia’s restrictive parallel importation laws. But what of books produced here?
Fossicking around Kinokuniya the other day I had a look at Peter Gilmore’s Quay cookbook, wondering if it was something I should add to my library despite that ridiculous snow egg dessert’s appearance on the equally-ridiculous Australian MasterChef. (All one needs to know on the subject is that friends of the Prick, celebrating one of their 40th birthdays at Quay recently, witnessed an NRL star and his WAG asking a waiter to photograph them with the dish.) Still, the book looked worthwhile, until I saw the pricetag: $95!
Which seems like kind of a spicy meatball, especially when one considers it is published by a local Australian imprint, Murdoch Books, which set this ridiculously high RRP.
What makes it worse is that if you go over to Amazon, the book can be yours for a little over $50 plus shipping – quite a difference.
To put it another way, it is cheaper to buy a book that has been shipped to the States and back than it is to buy a copy that has only been driven, essentially, down the road.
As it’s a local product, parallel importation can’t be the whole story. Is it just an opportunistic publisher trying to stuff its boots with whatever the market will bear? I’ve put the question to Murdoch Books but have not yet had a reply, though I’ll post anything that comes back to me on this.
In the meantime, anyone with thoughts or experience with the issue care to weigh in?