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Book printing industry could ‘disintegrate’

Wednesday, 29 June 2016
By Print 21 Online Article

Nick Xenophon at Matilda Bookshop in Adelaide

The viability of the Australian book printing industry is under threat as uncertainty mounts over the impact of government proposals to remove parallel book import restrictions.

Leading global book publisher HarperCollins – a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp – has warned that its local book production operation could be forced offshore if the federal government goes ahead with a controversial plan to lift international book publishing standards enjoyed by the US and the UK.

“Innovations in Australian digital print technology and supply methods means we are looking to on-shore as much book production as possible,” said Robyn Fritchley, director, HarperCollins Australian Publishing Operations. “The government’s plan to repeal parallel importation rules (PIRs) would reverse that trend because print runs would become smaller and less economical, forcing us back to overseas supply.”

Ben Jolly, CEO of Australia’s largest trade book printer, Adelaide’s Griffin Press, added: “There is a very real possibility the whole local publishing and print industry could disintegrate. What is frustrating about the uncertainty that lies ahead is there is no real evidence consumers will pay lower prices for their books nor will availability improve if PIRs are removed.”

Griffin Press has 105 employees and engages with many other local companies that would also be impacted by the proposed changes.

“These include Adelaide’s carton (box) makers, cover embellishment and sheetfed printers, plus local digital and conventional printing support engineers,” said Jolly. “The changes would also impact on paper manufacturers in Tasmania.”

Australian book printers have embraced digital disruption with significant investments in new technology to remain competitive and deliver fast turnarounds demanded by the local book market, according to Books Create Australia, an initiative set up last month by the Australian Publishers’ Association, the Australian Booksellers Association and the Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) to campaign against the government’s plan. With Australians choosing to read 80% of their books off the printed page rather than in digital versions, book printers are a vital part of the $2 billion local book industry ecosystem.

Senator Nick Xenophon yesterday joined Jolly and Fritchley at a Books Create Australia media event at the Matilda Bookshop in Adelaide, where he called on the federal government to scrap the plan that he says risks 20,000 local jobs.

“The Turnbull Government keeps talking about ‘jobs and growth’ and innovation yet the overwhelming feedback that I and my team’s candidates have received from authors, publishers, artists and others in the industry is that this plan will hinder creativity and innovation and cost jobs,” he said.

“PM Turnbull would have us believe there’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian – yet he won’t invest in the very industries which educate all Australians – and especially our young people,” Xenophon said. “Removing PIRs will mean that rather than reading an Australian childhood classic like Possum Magic, our children will read American and British books instead. And rather than go in to bat for Australian jobs, the Government plans will reward offshore publishers, printers and wholesalers at the expense of local authors, publishers, printers, distributors and booksellers.”

Over 15,000 Australians have signed a petition to oppose the plan.

"As a children’s book illustrator, it has taken me 28 long, hard years to build my career to a point where I am able to do what I love. Through my Australian publisher, Hachette Australia, my illustrations bring joy into the lives of young Australian children every day and night, teaching them about our animals, nurturing their imaginations and bringing that bond between a child and parent even closer - it’s not just about reading. It’s not just a book. Like many Australian authors and illustrators, I speak to thousands of school children every year inspiring them to read, draw, create, chase their dreams - promoting literacy. The proposed changes to Copyright Laws and lifting the Parallel Importation Restrictions by the Productivity Commission, threaten to take all this away, and not just from me. This will be a snowball effect to Australia’s most successful creative industry for decades to come. How important is Australian literacy to our government? How important are our school children and the influences they have in those early years? How important is our culture and the need to support our own? It’s not just a book." - Mandy Foot


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