PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS – A Closer Look at the Productivity Commission’s Findings – and introducing a new column, “PC CRIT”


This is the FIRST in a series of regular commentaries on the findings of the Productivity Commission’s Research Report into Restrictions on Parallel Importation of Books.

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for future column topics.

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

The Productivity Commission has provided you with a document of around 220 pages on why parallel imports on books should be removed. I promise mine won’t be anywhere near as lengthy, but seeing as we live in a democratic society, it seems only fair that the publishing industry gets to have its say.

That’s why I’ve started my column, “PC Crit”, which will go through the Productivity Commission findings and present things from an alternative perspective.


In its ‘Key Points’ on page XIV of its Productivity Commission Research Report, the PC claims:

  •  Most of the benefits of PIR protection accrue to publishers and authors, with demand for local printing also increased.


  • Most of the costs are met by consumers who fund these benefits in a non-transparent manner through higher book prices.

The flaws in these argument are a matter of straight mathematics, which would be self evident if ‘current’ , independent, objective research was conducted on the subject.

Some chain stores are demanding discounts of up to 70% from publishers. The author gets standard 10% royalty, 10% must also be taken into account for GST, and the publisher, printer and distributor get the rest.

This clearly demonstrates that a disproportionate amount of the book’s retail price goes to the likes of Dymocks, Coles and Big W – and the members of the Coalition for Cheaper Books (frequently quoted in the PC report) the parties behind the move to abolish PIRs.

Clearly, the largest proportion of the price on ‘supposedly overpriced books’ is NOT going to the author, the publisher or the printer.

So how can it be argued that most of ‘anything’ accrues to publishers and authors?

And even if you concede that authors and publishers have the most to gain from PIRs, how can PIRs be blamed for the alleged ‘higher books prices’ when those receiving the benefits of  them are making the MOST financial outlay to produce the book yet receiving the LEAST back from its sale?

And when was price the prime reason for people’s book purchasing decisions? Ask any independent bookseller and they’ll tell you that people don’t walk into their store asking for a $10 book – they ask for something on a particular topic, or by a particular author – or perhaps they just want to read about their own country from someone who knows it well – an Australian author.

Thanks for your time.

Dee White – Author