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Figure 13: Trade publisher revenue, by Australian and imported/agency books, 2001–10
Source: Cover to cover, Figure 16, p. 25.
Trade publisher revenue generated by Australian books grew by an annual average of 8.7 per cent from 2001 to 2010, compared to trade publisher revenue generated by imported and agency books, which grew by an annual average of 3.0 per cent. Educational publisher revenue generated by Australian books grew by an annual average of 2.3 per cent from 2001 to 2010, compared to educational publisher revenue generated by imported and agency books, which decreased by an annual average of 1.1 per cent.
The book printing industry in Australia includes three larger specialised book printing companies: McPherson’s Printing Group (Maryborough Victoria), Griffin Press (Adelaide) and Ligare (Sydney), which account for more than 40 per cent of revenue earned. McPherson’s and Griffin print the majority of locally sourced mono books for the larger ‘read for pleasure’ publishers, generally under contract. The remainder of the book printing industry comprises several smaller, mid-size specialist printers, for example, BPA Print Group, Hyde Park Press, a small number of large printers who print books as a small percentage of their total business (for example, Blue Star, Geon) and a very large number of smaller printers who also print books of relatively small print volumes. The majority of non–time sensitive printing is in Asia, particularly high-value colour books and educational texts. Books, for purposes of this report, are defined in a production sense and include anything that is bound in a book form, excluding brochures, flyers, magazines and so on. The definition of books would include bound directories, industrial catalogues, manuals, guides and journals.
The concentration of ownership has been associated with increased capital intensity, partly to counter strong competition from offshore printers in low-wage countries.
Book printers account for only a fraction of Australian printing employment and their numbers are not tabulated separately in the census. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that 2,000 people are currently employed in book printing.
The revenue generated by the book printing industry in nominal prices is estimated to have declined from $250 million in 2001 to $220 million in 2010 – an annual average decrease of 1.4 per cent. Adjusted for inflation, the drop in book printing revenue over the past decade was even greater – an annual average decrease of 4.1 per cent. The drop in revenue reflects the shift of book printing jobs from Australian to overseas printers.
The Australian bricks-and-mortar book retail sector has three main arms: chains such as Dymocks and the franchise-based Collins; discount department stores that offer books among a wider range of consumer goods (including Target, Big W and Kmart); and independent retailers.
The most recent ABS survey of book retailers in 2003–04 found that there were 1,572 businesses selling books in Australia, including 561 bookshops. In total, they sold almost 80 million new books at a value of $1.4 billion. Bookshops accounted for 78 per cent of total sales, department stores for 14 per cent, and newsagents and miscellaneous retailers made up the remainder. The survey did not include direct online or mail order sales
The available evidence suggests that the number of bookstores has grown over the past decade, but declined in recent years. In 2011, the Australian Booksellers Association (through Thorpe-Bowker) calculated the number of booksellers as 1920, in the following categories: