Book industry strategy group




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To ensure that the Australian book industry is innovative, prosperous and sustainable for the long term, develops Australian creators and creative works and encourages investment in new technologies.

The Book Industry Strategy Group believes that this vision can be achieved by a strategy to transform the book industry. This strategy would be implemented over the next three to five years, and would be embedded in a process of continual review and renewal.

The transformation strategy requires the industry to recognise its competitive advantages and seize its opportunities for growth, innovation, investment and increased efficiency. Specific actions will be required to improve supply chain efficiency, encourage industry investment, develop industry skills, encourage creativity and develop new markets.

To achieve the industry vision by 2020, the Book Industry Strategy Group has made a suite of recommendations aimed at integrating the book supply chain, enhancing competitiveness in the global book market, improving supply chain efficiencies, rewarding creativity, supporting the business environment and supporting Australian culture. These recommendations have been grouped into six themes that reflect the areas of core focus. A detailed discussion on the rationale supporting the BISG recommendations begins on page 50 of this report.

List of recommendations

The Book Industry Strategy Group recommends:

Integrating the book supply chain

1 That the Australian Government establish a Book Industry Collaborative Council with membership from all parts of the book value chain, which is tasked with implementing the industry reform priorities identified by the Book Industry Strategy Group and other issues as they emerge.

Competing effectively in the global book market

2 The Book Industry Strategy Group urges the Government to recognise the competitive disadvantage being imposed on the Australian book industry as a result of GST inequity. In recognition of the broad range of considerations for government on this issue, the Book Industry Strategy Group offers three alternative recommendations:

a That the Government take appropriate action to abolish the 10 per cent GST on books purchased in Australia, noting that in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and in most OECD member countries, books are either exempt from VAT or taxed at a reduced rate

or

b That the Government provide greater equity in competition for Australian retailers by applying the 10 per cent GST on books sold by overseas retailers to Australian consumers

or

c That the Government recognise the disadvantage placed upon Australian booksellers as a result of GST inequity when competing with international online retailers and support the Book Industry Strategy Group’s suite of recommendations.

3 That the Government initiate negotiations with the Universal Postal Union to secure amendment of the appropriate postal treaties to provide more equitable and competitive pricing for print post delivery, where Australia is currently severely disadvantaged.

4 That the Australian book industry (authors, printers, publishers and booksellers) formalise an agreed, industry-wide code of practice that will reduce the timeframe for retention of territorial copyright from 30/90 days to 14/14 days without the need to amend existing legislation. To support this, TitlePage will provide information to booksellers on the PIR status of individual titles. The code will be reviewed at the end of 12 months and subsequently at determined intervals to assess its effectiveness.

5 That the proposed Book Industry Collaborative Council work with Austrade to improve the support provided to the book industry to enter export markets. This may include working with Austrade to develop a long-term book industry export strategy to promote Australian books, including educational material, to the world, especially the Asia–Pacific region.

Improving supply chain efficiencies

6 That the book industry establish a goal of 48 hours turnaround for fulfilling Australian reseller orders. In seeking to achieve this, the Government should support the proposed Book Industry Collaborative Council in its task of improving the efficiency of the book distribution network through rationalisation, standardisation and consolidation, as its key priority over its first three years.

7 That the Government provide funding of $5 million for the development of the stage two TitlePage enhancement to develop the digital infrastructure required for an efficient, cost-competitive and secure online service to consumers that is comparable in promotion, range and functionality to that of the main offshore retailers.

8 That the Government provide financial support to establish a National University Press Network of $10 million over a two-year period, matched by $6 million from the university sector, for three related projects:

a a publication subsidies scheme – $6 million over a two-year period; 97 per cent of these funds will be used to subsidise scholarly publications in the humanities and social sciences

b marketing and distribution infrastructure – $2 million over a two-year period

c production infrastructure – $2 million over a
two-year period.

Rewarding and protecting creativity

9 That, as copyright is fundamental to the viability of the book industry:

a issues relating to digital books form part of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s upcoming review of digital copyright

b the Australian Law Reform Commission consult directly with the book industry through its author and publishing associations.

10 That:

a Australian publishers work to clarify the business model for the use of ebooks in libraries

b following that, the Government establish a framework and guidelines for how ebooks may become a part of the ELR/PLR schemes.

11 That the Government actively monitor the implementation of the statutory licence for education to ensure that it meets its dual objectives of enabling instant use of material for educational purposes
while ensuring the ongoing development of materials used in education.

12 That the Government:

a work, through the Attorney-General’s Department, with the content and internet industries to ensure adoption of a binding industry code on copyright infringement by internet service providers and their customers in accordance with the legislative framework in order to combat and defeat piracy

b consider facilitating discussions between copyright owners and internet service providers over remuneration for copyrights accessed through the internet service providers.

Supporting the business environment

13 That the proposed Book Industry Collaborative Council develop a comprehensive skills strategy, which addresses training needs for all parts of the book supply chain as a matter of priority and that it then works with peak industry associations, employers and unions to progress implementation and ensure alignment with relevant industry training packages.

14 That the Government and the book industry share the cost of reinstating collection of book industry statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and that survey collection commence in the 2012–13 financial year.

15 That the Government, through new or existing grants programs, support the introduction of (a) business development programs for new and proposed digital enterprises, including for authors, publishers and booksellers, and (b) training grants to enable small business to invest in digital skills upgrading for staff.

16 That the Government recognise the significant structural shift occurring within the Australian book printing sector and provide a structural adjustment program to facilitate the transition of the sector into the future. As part of the structural adjustment process the Government should:

a allow necessary industry consolidation for large-scale book printers

b introduce a support package for displaced employees and regional communities impacted by labour reductions inherent in new digital production technologies and industry consolidation

c where appropriate, adjust the eligibility criteria of relevant existing industry support programs to improve access for the book printing sector

d make the printing of a book in Australia a condition of receiving government assistance for developing and publishing a book

e assist the industry to promote the environmental and employment advantages of buying a book printed in Australia

f provide financial support for printers encouraging technology reinvestment and facilitating business transformation in response to a digital future incorporating print on demand and short-run printing.

17 That the Government reallocate $30 million over three years from the existing Digital Education Revolution funding for the purchase of digital teaching and learning resources administered through a market-based mechanism that directs government spending to the purchase of digital learning materials.

18 That the Government, in order to stimulate the development of quality higher education teaching and learning materials:

a allocate 10 per cent of the $50 million funding from the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education program to a grants program that supports the development of quality, innovative teaching and learning resources for the higher education sector

b develop a reward/recognition system which promotes teaching excellence and authoring of quality educational materials and thereby creates greater balance with the research focus of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) program.

19 That:

a the Government legislate to make tax exempt all literary prizes, awards and grants that are funded and administered by government, whether local, state or Commonwealth

b the Government implement an income deposits tax measure, following the precedent of the rural (farm management) deposits scheme, to assist with management of fluctuations in artists’/authors’ incomes over time.

Supporting Australian culture

20 That the Government encourage a review of the Australia Council’s Literature Board grants allocation processes and criteria, aiming to provide substantial additional funding directly to authors to a minimum $3.5 million per annum thus ensuring the ongoing support of creative authorship in a period of declining remuneration.

21 That the Government work with key industry sectors and associations to create a National Book Council as a new, specific partnership. The National Book Council’s roles would include:

a provision of additional funds to writers for the creation of new Australian works

b the development of attractive financial investment models with potential return to government and individual investors

c funding of a multiyear marketing campaign for the promotion of Australian writers both nationally and internationally.


Prologue: Cultural development and creativity in
the digital revolution – a personal perspective


The Hon Dr Barry Jones AO, Chair, Book Industry Strategy Group

Books and personal development

The book, originally as a scroll, then as a codex, has been critical to the transmission of ideas, narrative, information and beliefs for 2,500 years, from the time of Homer, Gilgamesh and the Pentateuch. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all ‘faiths of the book’. Print books have been important in religious practice, learning and recreation for 500 years. Books, whether in traditional or electronic form, are a vital part of our culture, a metaphor for individual, autonomous learning, in which the reader can stop, annotate, ponder, start again, re-read an earlier passage, reconsider and continue at an appropriate rate. Isaac Newton, in the plague year, returned to the country when Cambridge closed, and with books he had bought or borrowed he had a small library of advanced mathematics. He built on this foundation of European mathematics to become the world’s paramount mathematician
(Gleick 2004).

It is difficult to see how Newton’s work would have developed without the thousand-page commonplace book that became his research journal – the Waste Book. But now we have Stephen Wolfram’s ‘new kind of science’ – page after page of computer graphics – impossible without powerful computers (Wolfram 2002). Whether this form of science will have the same impact as Newton’s remains to be seen, but it fits in with transformations in the nature of reading, writing and learning

Reading, especially of books, has had a profound influence on personal development. According to the work of Sir Michael Marmot, an eminent Australian health researcher in England, parents reading to children is a contributing factor to happiness and longevity. It remains to be seen how far this practice will survive or flourish in the digital revolution. Reading has been central in growth, self-discovery, cultural transmission, literacy, aesthetics, values, creativity, personal development, narrative power, cultivating the imagination, pursuing the poetic, achieving psychological insights, encouraging evidence-based judgment, preservation of memory – both personal and collective – and acquiring essential knowledge.

Traditionally, books were central to the creative process, involving writers, artists, designers, editors, publishers and support staff, then printers, distributors and booksellers. The book became deeply significant for readers, in schools, universities, libraries, and at home, for recreation, stimulation or instruction, especially after literacy rates rose in the 19th century.

It is essential to ensure that, in the name of the digital revolution, we don’t discard the old regime. Irreplaceable aspects of traditional publishing should be identified
and preserved. We read and write differently on screens: to read and write on them exclusively might have a profound effect. Language, for instance, would be bound to suffer – as it already has with the rise of technocracy and managerialism.

According to renowned Australian writer Don Watson,

Books are objects of love, especially among children. What they draw from them, therefore, probably cannot be replaced by a digital device, which they may love as a piece of technology but not as a book, an object of enchantment or knowledge in itself. We research differently and find different information when we look in books. Looking up my old three-volume Webster’s for a word, I find things I do not find when I check a word on the digital Webster’s. It’s the same when I browse shelves in the State Library. The human dimension of books – the tactile thing – is not unimportant, nor are the jewels of serendipity. We should be teaching a love of words and ideas from the very beginning – that, and training teachers to do it, is the best guarantee of a healthy publishing industry – and a more than useful contribution to a successful economy and a richer culture. 

Jason Epstein (2011), the veteran editor of the New York Review of Books, asserts: ‘Far more than any other medium, books contain civilisation, the ongoing conversation between present and past’.

We live in a cultural, economic and political context where creativity seems to have fallen out of the lexicon and our approach to issues is increasingly managerial, instrumental and material – and this situation is characteristic of most advanced economies. We look for instant communication, instant responses and instant gratification, in which Twitter speed is central.

Books and the digital information revolution

Redefining the book is increasingly common. Some writers feel it is appropriate to start the taxonomy with the classification of fiction versus non-fiction. Fiction is generally (although Flaubert might have disagreed) a ‘read-once’ book, whereas non-fiction is a reference that is looked up many times. Whether this is a useful classification remains to be seen, and it fails when one looks at lending libraries. However, consider the following statistics about a book on information.

American author, journalist, and biographer James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011) is sold in bookshops in Australia for A$65.00 in hardback and A$35.00 in paperback. Amazon offers the hardback for US$17.43 (plus postage) and it can be downloaded on Kindle for US$14.15. It is not a hard decision, at midnight, to decide which is the quickest and cheapest way to get the book.

The Information is a valuable overview of the information revolution. Gleick refers to Claude Elwood Shannon (1916–2001), the American mathematician who pioneered information theory and promoted the term ‘bit’ (from ‘binary digit’) for the basic unit of information. He calculated in 1949 that the US Library of Congress contained about 100 trillion bits of information. This equates to around 10 terabytes (TB) of disk storage, and could be regarded as the sum of acquired knowledge at the time. In 2011, disk drives of 3 TB are readily available, and in a few years a laptop computer could come with a 10 TB hard drive. Such is the growth of information that the Library of Congress now has a 250 TB digital archive that grows at 5 TB a month. Public tweets, the ephemeral output of the Twitter social media service, are among the material stored in the digital archive.

As we seek to access such digital archives, it seems obvious that ereader devices such as Kindles, iPads or Android tablets will be necessary to store and display the material in a convenient way. How the new forms of display will work we do not know, but we know that this is happening and will continue to evolve.

An encyclopaedia might be regarded as the perfect example of a non-fiction reference that would survive in print – with regular updates of new material. However, Wikipedia has, in barely a decade, displaced Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Columbia Encyclopaedia and other paper-based reference works and, as Freeman Dyson (2011) observes, ‘… become the biggest storehouse of information on the planet and the noisiest battleground of
conflicting opinions’.

Gleick sees the digital revolution as a ‘symptom of omniscience’ (2011: 409). It is what the music critic Alex Ross calls the ‘Infinite Playlist’, in which all recorded knowledge can be accessed by the touch of a button, a mixed blessing that brings ‘anxiety in place of fulfilment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise. No longer has one experience begun than the thoughts of what else is out there intrudes’. Gleick comments (2011: 409): ‘The embarrassment of riches. Another reminder that information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom’.

Bookshops and libraries

Independent bookshops play an important role in creating a culture; ‘making readers’; developing reading communities; holding events, such as book launches or discussions; acting as intermediaries, providers of information and curators. As providers of information, well-informed booksellers can compete with the internet.

In addition to their content, books have been important as possessions, physical objects, important mementos of childhood, gifts or for display, collectors’ items distinguished for beauty or rarity, and the treasures of great libraries. Publishing has provided career opportunities for designers, binders, illustrators, photographers and many other professionals. The new professional opportunities that will be created in electronic publishing are not yet clear, but there will be opportunities. Before the World Wide Web there were no web developers or web designers.

The book industry exists in a cultural context, spanning the creators of books – novels, poetry, biographies, travel guides, children’s books, books about cooking, gardening, art and sport – through to consumers – readers – of all ages.

Ebooks offer attractive supplements to the printed text. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, a historical novel about Thomas Cromwell, provides in its electronic form an interview with the author by historian David Starkey, coloured maps and reproductions of portraits by Holbein. An ebook of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll adds animations of the original Tenniel illustrations. Both are offered at below the price of the printed book.

Public libraries, physical depositories of books, journals, magazines and newspapers were essential elements in community education, especially self-education, for three centuries, places where readers were exposed to chance encounters with unfamiliar material and the assistance of helpful librarians. But the very concept of a public library is currently under threat and may appear to some readers as remote as the medieval monastery, especially when they can access the contents of the Library of Congress from their iPads. The Fisher Library of the University of Sydney plans to eliminate 500,000 books from its collection. The University of New South Wales Library is converting library space to lounges, which are more friendly to people using ereaders. It is difficult to imagine any government in 2011 committing large sums to the construction of new libraries.

In publishing, many books are printed and promoted even where there is a low expectation of profit because publishers want to encourage younger writers and because a large success for a few titles – the Harry Potter, Millennium and Twilight phenomena – can enable publishers to survive even when many books with small print runs do not recover cost.

Finding out about books and book content will change: theoretically access will be much wider, but without person-to-person contact in a library or bookshop. The future of literary journals such as the Australian Book Review (now available online) come under challenge, as will the book review pages in our major newspapers. Bookshops, word-of-mouth recommendations and access to libraries will remain significant for older readers, while electronic systems will dominate choices by younger readers. But it may be that social media services will become a new form of word-of-mouth recommendation.

Responding to the digital revolution

Historically, Australia has generally been slow to adopt new technologies – but, once adopted, the take-up rate is very rapid. Often, we have been rather passive in the development of new technology, preferring to adopt existing technology from overseas. Black-and-white television transmission became common in the United States and Great Britain after World War II but began in Australia as late as 1956. However, the take-up happened at an unprecedented pace. Colour television, relatively common in the United States and Great Britain in the mid 1960s, only began regular transmission in Australia in 1975; by 1978, 64 per cent of households in Sydney and Melbourne had colour sets. Although Australia built a large stored memory computer by 1949 and had some pioneering capacity in transistors, we failed to exploit either and were late to adopt mainframe computers or – decades later – personal and then portable computers. Japan had a mobile telephone network in 1979 but it was not adopted in Australia until 1987.

There are now more mobile phones in Australia than inhabitants. In 2007, in Japan, 10 of the bestselling printed novels were based on cell phone novels, and 86 per cent of Japanese high school students read cell phone novels.

Considering this pattern, it is reasonable to assume that even if the take-up of ebooks has been relatively modest until 2011, it may well be very rapid in the immediate future. There have been exceptionally rapid transitions in the retailing and production of videos and recorded music, from 78-rpm discs, to LPs to CDs to MP3s and now to online stores that allow the purchase of individual tracks, rather than the complete performance. Will the successor to the 2,500-year-old codex go the way of vinyl, the LP and photographic film?

One aspect of the digital revolution is the speed with which change is possible. Email is a late 20th century development, but there are already attempts to reinvent email by asking the question: ‘What would email look like if it had been invented in the 21st century?’ Email as we know it has been modified to allow the incorporation of multimedia (sound and pictures) and the notion of ‘friends’ and ‘conversations’.

The impact of globalisation and technology on the book industry, from authors through to readers, and the complete supply chain in between, remains highly speculative. However, there is merit in considering which likely changes in production can stimulate and increase opportunities for creativity rather than stunting them.

A series of important technical changes will transform the book industry as electronic processing or creation becomes cheaper and more user friendly. Currently it costs around $1.50 per page to digitise a printed novel, but more for textbooks with illustrations. Similarly, electronic publishing services are being established to help produce ebooks more easily.

Higher labour costs and relatively small production runs in Australia are serious, if not fatal, impediments to overseas competition, and are exacerbate by a strong Australian dollar.

It is significant that people are rising to the challenges presented by the digital revolution and trying new ways of communicating and storytelling, in an age when many people think information should be free. This raises the question, ‘What is a fair price?’

‘Deep reading’ and ‘skimming’

In the United States and the United Kingdom, book sales, even including ebooks and books bought online, have been flatlining for a decade, while Australian figures indicate a modest growth. Malcolm Knox (2011) speculates that our pattern of reading is a response to the changing nature of work and leisure in which ‘deep reading’, the concentrated pursuit of linear stories and thought , ‘is being trained out of us’ and this may lead to ‘rewiring the human brain’. Norman Doidge (2010), writing about neuroplasticity, argues a similar case.

Surveys suggest that, as reading online has increased, reading of print has declined, especially for people in the 25 to 34 year old age group. Are the two ways of readings identical? The English neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield predicts a generational change from linear reading to non-linear skimming. The web teaches us to process information very quickly but also inconsequentially.

Seth Godin (2011), an American online marketing guru and prolific author, argues persuasively that readers comprise two distinct personality types, ‘farmers’ and ‘hunters’.

‘Farmers’ are committed to deep reading, spend considerable time concentrating and reflecting, have long attention spans and avoid distraction. They are likely to remain committed to print books and to enjoy visits to bookstores.

‘Hunters’ are more likely to skim who take in material in diverse and discursive ways and are used to multitasking and moving rapidly between a variety of electronic forms, with limited time investment; their intake is wide but shallow and dependent on a diversity of external stimuli. They are less likely to be serious users of the traditional book. Of course, some readers will have characteristics from both categories. Older consumers are more likely to be ‘farmers’, younger ones ‘hunters’.

The isolation required by serious reading is interrupted by constant distraction, as Knox observes, including ‘email, digital news alerts, SMS, phone calls ... RSS feeds, tweets, blogs, social networking pokes’. The American writer Nicolas Carr (2010) estimates that office workers check their emails 30 to 40 times per hour. ‘Some writers have become, or need to become, marketers .... Most are worried by “over-connectedness” ’, Carr writes. But there are others, like journalist Nick Bilton (2010), who see this overstimulation as a way to increase motivation and stimulate imagination.

The intellectual challenge of the digital revolution

The disturbing paradox of the digital revolution is that, despite an exponential increase in available information, rapid growth in universities (more than a million students in Australia are undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate degrees) and spectacular achievements in scientific and medical research, it appears that the level of public discourse on many important issues (politics, climate change, human rights, refugees) is being conducted at a depressing level.

There is a disturbing United States parallel. In 1860, more than 150 years ago, at the Cooper Union in New York, Abraham Lincoln began his campaign for the presidency with a complex speech about slavery – 7,500 words long, complex and nuanced. All four New York newspapers published the full text, which was sent by telegraph across the nation, widely read and discussed. In 1860 the technology was primitive but the ideas were profound and sophisticated. In 2011 technology is sophisticated but the quality of public discourse is limited.

Australia, like every other advanced economy, faces serious challenges about how we perceive the world, learn, communicate, work and form relationships at every level, from the personal and intimate to the public and global.

There is no reason to doubt that Australians will rise to the challenges that the digital revolution has presented to long-standing industries, built using the tools and economic models of an earlier age. There are plenty of failed experiments with the new ebook and ereader technologies. There are fiction books with embedded multimedia features that some readers may find are a distraction from immersing themselves in a story. However, the same multimedia approach could lead to better ways of teaching and learning. An animation of the circulatory system, or an engineering design, may be a better learning aid than pure text.

If we are to peer into a dimly illuminated future, what can we see? When we look at computers, Moore’s law has relentlessly increased the computing capacity in ever smaller and cheaper chips. But we still have mainframe computers, minicomputers, personal computers, tablets and smartphones. They all co-exist in their own niches. So it may be with books. The taxonomy of books may become better defined, and in some areas, print books may thrive. Textbooks look like a good candidate for e-treatment, but surprising developments like rental markets for textbooks have all sprung up in a successful attempt to save students money.

But we must encourage creativity or, as the dynamic English educator Sir Ken Robinson calls it, ‘applied imagination’. If something as new as email can be reimagined in the 21st century, it is not a big stretch to think that the book industry can be transformed by creative Australians. Where do we find these creative Australians? We grow our own, from native or imported stock, in schools and universities.

The digital revolution should be welcomed, and the publishing industry should be moving fast to adapt to and embrace it. However, we should not be looking at publishing in isolation, but in its relationship to culture and education in general. Publishers, governments and institutions should be looking for imaginative links with each other. Australian universities could combine to create a major academic publishing house for ebooks and print books.

Knowledge is an area of the economy that will still be crucial long after the mining boom is over. The Connected Continent, a report by Deloitte Access Economics commissioned by Google Australia, calculates that the value of the internet in Australia has already become as big as that of iron ore exports.

Books are more than an industrial output, as conventionally defined. The book culture must be stimulated and transformed.





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