Population

25.10 million (2019)

Official Language

English

Currency

Australian dollar (AUD)

Important Ministries

Department of Education is responsible for national policies and programs that help Australians access quality and affordable early child care and childhood education, school education, higher education, international education and research.

Department of Communications and the Arts supports inclusiveness and growth in Australia's creative sector, and protects and promotes Australian content and culture.

Official Statistics Office

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia's official statistical organisation which provides a high quality, objective and responsive national statistical service.

Annual Book Fairs

Perth International Arts Festival is held from February to March.

Melbourne Rare Book Fair is held in July.

Melbourne Writers Festival is held over 10 days in August/September.

VAT on Books

Fixed Book Price System

Trade Magazine

Books + Publishing

Statistics

PA market report Australia 2005

Book market statistics August 2017

In-depth Country Profile

An introduction to the Australian market for consumer and children’s books

The Australian book market is the largest single-country export market for UK publishers of adult and children’s consumer (‘trade’) books. Unit sales of the mega-sellers can occasionally reach six figures. All subject-areas are covered, but the market has its own characteristics and preferences. Publishing of books on Australian subjects by Australian authors for an Australian readership is a vital and thriving part of the market.

Key facts: 

   The population is 25 million in 2019, of which 60% is concentrated in the five coastal cities of Sydney (state of New South Wales), Melbourne (Victoria), Brisbane (Queensland), Perth (Western Australia) and Adelaide (South Australia); and more than 40% lies in the three southeastern states.

   The book market broadly reflects those concentrations of population.

   Most, but not all, publishers’ and distributors’ offices are located in or near Sydney and Melbourne.

The status of the consumer book market:

   In territorial rights agreements between authors, agents and publishers, Australia is listed as an exclusive territory for UK publishers where there is also a US (or other English-language) edition of a book.

   This means that US publishers agree not to sell their editions directly into the Australian market, an undertaking that also applies to the UK market.

   It also means that a distributor appointed by a UK publisher to sell, market and distribute its books in Australia has the exclusive right to do so.

   This exclusive status is endorsed by Australian copyright law, though there have been regular government reviews since the early 1990s.

   Exclusivity in copyright supports the rights-holders’ entitlement to exploit copyrights they have invested in through advances to authors, marketing expenditure, etc. At the most recent review in 2016, many Australian writers and publishers said that removing exclusivity from the Australian market would damage or destroy the local publishing industry.

   The most recent government review did not remove territorial exclusivity, nor alter an agreement by publishers and distributors, intended to comply with a requirement to serve the consumer, that they would make overseas titles available in the Australian market within 14 days of (a) their first availability elsewhere or (b) the placing of an order; should they not meet that requirement, their exclusive right to sell the title in the territory would be forfeit.

   However, intermediaries such as international wholesalers and online retailers do not always observe these territorial restrictions, and supply booksellers and consumers respectively with what are known technically as ‘infringing editions’.

   In practice, some titles are much more sensitive to the stipulated time-limits than lower-profile and specialist titles: for overwhelming commercial reasons, bestselling titles by global brand authors are almost always subject to simultaneous world-wide release, often enabled by local printing.

The structure of the consumer book market:

There are five main channels to market:

   Online retail including the local Booktopia( https://www.booktopia.com.au) in 2003, and amazon.com.au, which inaugurated its stockholding Australian business in 2018.

   Chain booksellers: QBD, with over 70 stores nationwide (https://www.qbd.com.au); Dymocks, a long-established franchise bookselling chain with 65 stores nationwide https://www.dymocks.com.au; and Collins Booksellers, with over 60 franchised stores http://www.collinsbooks.com.au

   Discount Department Stores (DDSs) Big W (186 stores), Kmart (228 stores) and Target (301 stores). These are mass-market non-food outlets selling a tightly focussed range of new bestsellers and popular backlist including children’s.

   Independent bookstores, including museum and gallery stores. Over 180 stores are members of Leading Edge, a national buying and marketing group https://www.leadingedgebooks.com.au

   Within the independent category there are also regional chains such as Readings in Melbourne (https://www.readings.com.au), and Sydney-based Berkelouw, (http://berkelouw.com.au)

   The non-book gift market, served by a range of wholesalers including Brumby Sunstate (https://www.brumbysunstate.com.au) and Hardie Grant Gift, a division of the Melbourne-based Australian publisher Hardie Grant https://hardiegrantgift.com.au

Market shares across these channels vary widely according to book categories: potential distributor partners will indicate these.

A major factor in the Australian book market over the last decade has been off-shore online retail:

   Online book retailers based mainly in the UK have targeted Australian consumers with discounted prices and free-shipping.

   Exchange rates in particular periods have made these offers highly attractive.

   Estimates vary as to the market share this represents, and some statistics have been disclosed; but it is significant.

   As a result local publishers and distributors have lost sales, while their confidence in sales forecasting, and willingness to spend on marketing, have been affected.

   An additional consequence was loss of revenue for the Australian exchequer, since books in Australia attract a goods and services tax (GST, the VAT-equivalent) of 10%. In July 2018 a measure was introduced to apply this tax to online purchases of all goods from overseas.

Accessing the Australian market for UK publishers:

There are four main routes to market for overseas publishers:

   Distribution, sales and marketing through the Australian associate company of an overseas publisher. These companies commonly have a high potential turnover threshhold for entering into such arrangements: they will set up the logistics and communications channels only if they believe the income generated will be substantial, or will develop to a substantial level. An arrangement of this kind will be covered by a detailed distribution contract defining terms of supply and all other aspects.

   Distribution, sales and marketing through an independent distributor. These companies too will have minimum expectations on sales potential, but are likely to have lower thresholds or other criteria. Again, the arrangement will be subject to a distribution contract. Profiles of the main such independent distributors in Australia appear within this toolkit, with contact information.

If an overseas publisher’s list does not meet any local distributor’s criteria

   Trade wholesalers in the UK, notably Gardners and Bertrams, whose business comprises a significant export element, offer a route to market.

   Offshore online retail as described above also offers discoverability and availability in overseas markets.

In the case of both these last two options, sales made to overseas markets will be invoiced to a UK customer, so that export proportions will not necessarily be apparent.

The absolute pre-requisite for all these routes to market is the timely availability of high-quality digital metadata, and sales material (including jackets/covers)whether in print or digital. A senior publisher in a major UK house memorably told his staff that the biggest single favour they could do their books in the modern era was to write a superb information-sheet with key-words, applying a high level of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The intensely competitive contemporary market-place is unforgiving of those who publish a good book but fail to give it this support.

Distributor Profiles