Let me introduce myself. My name is Darryl Adams, and I am a frustrated writer. It is only by accident that I discovered that I can write about technology in general and e-books in particular, so logically I find myself writing in a blog full of writers that are way better than me.
A famous joke (and yes it is funnier if you’re an Aussie and not a Queenslander) is an airline pilot telling his passengers “Welcome to Queensland. Turn your clocks back 1 hour and your mind back 20 years”. That, in a nutshell, is the Australian book marketplace.
We are a book colony of the United Kingdom. I have been told anecdotally that we represent about 50% of the book sales for the UK publishing houses. The Aussie publishers (generally owned by British publishers) own the distribution system. As a result, book prices are high, and local retailers are low on the totem pole compared to the big retailers.
The small independent book retailers are in a world of hurt. One side is the high book prices and poor supply fulfilment of the locally supplied books, and other is the mail order book retailers like Amazon and Book Depository who can sell and mail a book and still offer a price half the local book price.
E-books are another issue. The Kindle has only been available for about a year (when the Kindle was released internationally), and the Amazon bookstore is only a small subset of books available to the US public and are more expensive in comparison.
The other local e-book retailers (ebooks.com, ebookbop.com and readwithoutpaper.com) again have many books unavailable for Aussie readers. Price wise the local e-book retails are more expensive, with some books approaching paperback prices.
The Apple ibook platform for iPhone and iPad only offer Public Domain books. Apple has advertised for a local book manager, but it will take time for Apple to negotiate agreements with the publishing houses.
The only bright spot in the marketplace is Borders and Whitcoull (under the REDGroup banner). They have partnered with Kobo to release a reader and are slowly working to have a robust range of books for sale. The Kobo reader is a good reader, but is currently way overpriced (A$199 and NZ$250) as we are not seeing the massive price drops that that US is seeing at the moment.
Other readers are slowly being released, from the impressive Kogan reader to a range of disappointing LCD and e-ink readers that lack the DRM systems required to use locally purchased e-books.
For me, books are content. Either paper or e-ink, the words are still the same, it is just the delivery system that is different. I bought a copy of Dave Freer’s (and I believe Mercedes Lackey and Eric Flint may have supplied the pens) Much Fall of Blood in both ARC e-book and hardcover. Mainly because I wanted it now! And when I reread it, I ont have to think hard what format I want to read it in. What I don’t want is to have the choices of how I read a book taken away from me, and DRM, format lock-in, poor pricing, bad delivery mechanisms (wither in the real world or digitally) and propriety applications/devices/software actively do this. Or to say it simply, almost all of Australian book market is against me. It as if the WANT me to buy foreign sourced books.
And if the publishers, distributors, authors and retails finally work this out and get their act together in the United States or United Kingdom, odds on it will be 20 years before the Antipodes see it…..
www.borders.com.au (Borders AU)
www.whitcoull.co.nz (Whotcoull NZ)
www.koboreader.com (Kobo reader)
http://www.kogan.com.au/shop/category/ebook-readers/ (The Kogan Reader)
Digital-Pens/Ebooks (Some of the less than impressive e-book readers available.)
www.baen.com (Nuff said)
You can find more of Darryl's thoughts about e-books and publishing in general at http://oz-e-books.com/