Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Booksellers express ‘great concerns’ over the Book Depository’s plans for Australian market

The Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) has expressed ‘great concerns’ over the prospect of the Book Depository supplying Australian consumers directly from Australian publishers and distributors and avoiding payment of GST.

As reported by Books+Publishing, Amazon-owned online retailer the Book Depository has recently been in talks with Australian publishers to establish direct supply. While no publisher has confirmed it has agreed to direct supply, the ABA and industry figures including Booktopia CEO Tony Nash and Pages & Pages owner Jon Page have also expressed concern that the Book Depository might be able to supply consumers directly while continuing to avoid paying GST.

In a statement released on Thursday 13 November, the ABA said that the Book Depository ‘operates off-shore and does not collect GST’. ‘It has been suggested that they will claim a tax credit for purchases from Australian Publishers for the GST they should have paid,’ said the statement. ‘This represents a double whammy for the Australian taxpayer. This is why these companies love operating in Australia, from outside Australia.’

ABA CEO Joel Becker said that the industry accepted that the Book Depository and its owner Amazon ‘have a right to set up shop in Australia’. ‘What we want to ensure is that they pay their fair share of tax at the same rate as Australian bookshops, online and physical, large and small, chain and independent.’

‘That means collecting GST on any purchase supplied within Australia,’ said Becker. ‘We also expect them to do the right thing, as offshore suppliers like major overseas distributor Baker and Taylor does, pay GST on any purchase by an Australian consumer, wherever they are located.’

In a post on his Bite the Book blog, former ABA president Page said that any decision by a publisher to supply direct to the Book Depository  would be ‘incredibly short-sighted and a massive shot in the foot of local bookshops’, both physical and online. ‘Any publisher who decides to supply books for the Book Depository will help enable [its owner] Amazon … to sell physical books in Australia without a physical presence,’ wrote Page. ‘This means Amazon will not collect GST, they will not pay company tax, they won’t create any jobs and they will continue to use their complex tax avoidance structure. All supported by some Australian publishers.’

‘I would warmly welcome Amazon or the Book Depository setting up a warehouse in Australia because it would a fair fight,’ Page added. ‘This is not a fair fight.’

While no publisher has confirmed it will establish direct supply with the Book Depository, Melbourne publisher Affirm Press has declared it will not supply the UK-based retailer. ‘Affirm Press certainly hasn’t been approached by Book Depository and perhaps we’re not yet big enough to attract their interest,’ Affirm Press publisher Martin Hughes told Books+Publishing. Hughes said that ‘nothing has changed’ about the publisher’s opposition to the Book Depository model, which Affirm first announced last year. ‘If it plans to create a new model, we’d be keen to hear,’ said Hughes. ‘But until then we won’t make our books available through Book Depository.’

‘Bricks-and-mortar book retailers are still the life line of Australian publishing, but they are complemented in Australia by local, great, ethical online retailers,’ said Hughes. ‘Companies such as Booktopia, Bookworld and Boomerang Books provide terrific customer service, good pricing, create local jobs, pay taxes and work collaboratively with local publishers to find new audiences and sell more books. Affirm Press wants to focus on telling great Australian stories and selling them through great Australian book retailers.’


Category: Local news