08 August 2007

Publishers' upfront payments to Angus & Robertson

I heard on the news this morning that Angus & Robertson Booksellers is now demanding (in the same way that supermarkets do) upfront payments from book publishers before they will stock their books. They are apparently sending out invoices requiring payment, and if payment is not made then that publisher will not be a supplier to A&R anymore.

So, apart from payment for nothing (and I'm going to exercise my Trade Practices Act and Fair Trading Act thinking about this), what are the problems here? The first is that if a publisher can't or won't make the cash payment, then A&R will then have an excuse to gray market the book from overseas publishers. This will then lead to the demise of the Australian publisher/distributor. I imagine there will be other ramifications...

I also wonder if Angus & Robertson Booksellers will make the same claims on Angus & Robertson Publishers...

Yes, I know supermarkets do this, but just because other people do things with apparent impunity doesn't make it legal. I remember studying Australian constitutional law in about 1982, and remarking that the tobacco excise seemed to be illegal. My lecturer dismissed the argument on the basis that it had been working in Australia for years. Yet sometime in the late 90's or early 2000's someone finally did run the argument in the High Court and succeeded!

I imagine that A&R Bookseller's thinking is very much like the music industry's. "Let's see, we really don't understand technology or what the internet could do for us. Let's just make hard copy books more expensive - they're probably going to die out anyway (especially those useful technical books) - and milk them for what they're worth before we go broke. We don't like our customers - let's slug 'em."

Read the original letter and the reasoned response from a publisher. The original letter reads like a marketing fool's buzzword bingo entry.