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Commerce or Culture?

Australian Book Industry Policy in the Twenty-First Century



From an economic viewpoint, books are a commercial commodity. They are the output of a long supply chain beginning with authors, and proceeding through a series of value-adding stages including agents, publishers, editors, printers, distributors, and booksellers, before finishing up in the hands of the consumer—the book reader. The collection of individuals and business firms comprising the Australian book industry, although like other manufacturing industries, is actually a complex web of separate industries—the arts industry, the publishing industry, the printing industry, the retail industry, and so on. Nevertheless, it is possible, for example, to estimate the gross value of the output of books as a commodity in the national accounts, such that an economic assessment of the contribution of ‘the book industry’ to GDP can be undertaken. Thus the industry can be seen as an identifiable component of the manufacturing sector and can take its place alongside other industries for the purposes of determining government industry policy.

But, of course, books are not articles of commercial merchandise in the same way as footwear, beer or automobiles. Economists interested in the economics of art and culture classify books as cultural goods; they are defined as goods or services that embody or give rise to some form of value, termed cultural value, in addition to whatever economic value they may possess (Hutter and Throsby 2008; Snowball 2011). Although book lovers will have no difficulty recognising a purely artistic or cultural quality attributable to books, especially to literary works such as novels or poetry collections, the specification of an objectively measurable cultural value of books, whether expressed in qualitative or quantitative terms, is a task that has challenged literary theorists and cultural economists for many years (Connor 1992; Throsby 2001: Ch. 2). Suffice to say that, for the purposes of this essay, we can assume the existence of an identifiable dimension to the value of books, separate from their financial worth, that reflects, in some way, the contribution they make to the cultural life of individuals or of the nation.

The presence of these two contrasting dimensions to the value that this industry generates presents a dilemma for the policy-maker: should the book industry be regarded as an industrial or a cultural sector? If the former, a government’s dealing with the industry will be motivated by economic concerns and any assistance deemed necessary on these grounds will form part of overall economic policy. In such circumstances policy interventions might be limited to dealing with employment and training issues, export market development, assistance for small business etc. If, on the other hand, the production of books is regarded as a cultural industry, policy towards the industry will fall into the ambit of the government’s cultural policy, and the motive for supporting it, if support is warranted, will be to pursue cultural, not economic, objectives.

This dilemma has troubled Australian governments for many years, and has had a significant effect on the direction of book industry policy. In this paper we examine the evolution of policy towards the book industry in Australia over the last decade, and assess the extent to which changing policy settings have affected the industry. The paper is structured as follows: in section 2 the major milestones in the development of book policy as represented in significant government processes are discussed; in section 3 the current state of play is assessed. Section 4 addresses the normative question: what should a future book industry policy for Australia look like? The final section draws some conclusions.

Milestones in the Development of Australian Book Industry Policy

The evolution of policy towards the Australian book industry over recent years can be charted as a series of milestones corresponding to major government inquiries and processes. These inquiries and processes have identified significant concerns, which have led to a series of reports and recommendations that have had some impact on book policy deliberations. Three such processes are discussed below.

The Productivity Commission’s 2009 Inquiry into Parallel Importation Restrictions

Parallel importation restrictions (PIRs) were introduced by the Australian Government in 1991 as an amendment to the Copyright Act (1968). The PIRs provide protection for authors or publishers holding rights in Australian-published books, against the importation and sale of the books from overseas suppliers. To qualify for protection under these regulations, a book published in Australia must be released to Australian customers within 30 days of its publication elsewhere in the world, and resupply must be guaranteed within 90 days.1 The PIRs provide a level of (temporary) protection for the domestic book industry against foreign competition. In 2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) discussed PIRs in the context of possible reforms to competition policy. The outcome of these discussions was a reference to the Productivity Commission to inquire into the competitive impacts of the PIR regulations.

In its report released in July 2009, the Productivity Commission recommended repeal of the PIRs on the grounds that they placed upward pressure on book prices, restricted the commercial opportunities available to retail book suppliers, and were ineffective as a means of delivering support for the generation of the acknowledged cultural benefits yielded by the industry (Productivity Commission 2009). The Commission also recommended a review of existing mechanisms for encouraging production of these cultural benefits.

After due consideration of the Productivity Commission’s report, the Government reached the view that lifting the restrictions would deliver little or no net benefit, and, hence, decided not to accept the recommendation for repeal of the PIRs (as had a succession of Australian governments on both sides of the political fence in earlier years). At the same time, however, it was recognised that the book market was undergoing significant structural transformation as a result of digital technologies, and that these trends would only grow more intense. Accordingly, the Government decided to initiate a review of the book industry and its adaptation to a rapidly changing technological environment. This review process was established as the Book Industry Strategy Group.

The Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG)

The decision to set up the BISG was driven by the then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, whose interest in books as an industry and as a cultural phenomenon is well known. In a reference dated April 2010, he asked the Group to examine the impact of digitisation on the Australian book industry and to develop a comprehensive strategy for securing Australia’s place in the emerging digital book market and for making the domestic industry more efficient and globally competitive. The Group’s terms of reference covered a range of data-gathering and assessment tasks, and required the Group to put forward recommendations based on its findings. Given that it was operating under the aegis of the Industry Department, its focus was on industry-led proposals for reform. Nevertheless, the final item in its terms of reference sought advice on how existing Commonwealth Government programs and activities might be refocused to support the industry’s adaptation to new technologies.

It is fashionable these days for business corporations, government instrumentalities, universities, and all types of organisations to have a vision statement, and the BISG was no exception. It articulated its vision for the Australian book industry as follows:

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. (BISG 2011, 11)

Like all vision statements the BISG’s was long on rhetoric and short on detail, but the Group’s report released in September 2011 did in fact canvas a wide range of issues and generated a lot of data about the state of the industry. Its recommendations were grouped under six themes:

integrating the book supply chain

competing in the global market

improving efficiencies

rewarding and protecting creativity

supporting the business environment

supporting Australian culture.

Altogether, a total of 21 recommendations were presented to the Government.

The last of the six themes had a special resonance for the chair of the BISG, Barry Jones. As a well-known polymath and cultural omnivore, Jones was deeply engaged with the cultural importance of books. The fact that the BISG was operating under an industry rather than an arts or cultural ministry meant that its deliberations had to be orientated towards economic rather than cultural concerns, and its recommendations had to address issues of economic rather than cultural policy. In an effort to redress the balance, Jones contributed a learned prologue to the BISG Report entitled ‘Cultural development and creativity in the digital revolution—a personal perspective’, which concluded with the statement ‘Books are more than an industrial output, as conventionally defined. The book culture must be stimulated and transformed’ (BISG 2011, 20).

The Government’s response to the BISG Report dated June 2012 accepted some recommendations and rejected others, offering little in the way of increased resources for industry support (Australian Government 2012). One proposal that was readily accepted, however, was the Group’s first recommendation—that a Book Industry Collaborative Council be established to carry forward the implementation of the BISG’s reform priorities. Thus does one government process give rise to another.

The Book Industry Collaborative Council (BICC)

Planning for the BICC commenced in the early months of 2012, even before the formal release of the Government’s response to the BISG recommendations. As a result, the new Council was able to begin operation on 1 July 2012, with a 12-month timeframe to complete its work. The 20-member Council comprised representatives from peak book-industry associations as well as experts in fields related to the book industry. The Council was chaired by the present author. Four members of the BICC had also served on the BISG.

As with the BISG, the BICC’s operations were set up within the Industry portfolio. This time the relevant minister was Greg Combet, a politician not particularly noted for his interest in books. His ministry had acquired some additional responsibilities since its earlier incarnations—it was now the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, with an unpronounceable acronym. During the progress of the BICC, the Minister appeared to be too preoccupied with the other areas in his portfolio to be concerned with the book industry. Be that as it may, the industrial orientation of the BICC’s terms of reference was clear and, indeed, unlike the BISG, the membership of the Council included an ex-officio representative of the Industry Department.2

The BICC, guided by the findings of its predecessor, defined seven priority areas for in-depth attention. In order to provide expert consideration of these areas and to propose forward-looking strategies for industry progress, the BICC set up seven Expert Reference Groups:





Lending rights

Scholarly book publishing


Each Group was chaired by a member of the Council, with membership drawn from key experts in each field from across the industry and beyond.

The BICC’s final report was submitted to the Government on 28 June 2013. The 250-page report laid out a blueprint for industry reforms, which ramified into all sectors of the supply chain. It advocated an industry-wide approach to achieving distribution efficiencies based around principles of speed-to-market, availability and value, and placing the consumer at the heart of business decision-making. The recommendations in the report canvassed a wide range of reforms aimed at improving the industry’s capacity to meet the challenges of the digital economy.

As noted above, the BICC was a creation of the Industry Department and its focus was firmly on industry-led reform. Nevertheless, the Council recognised that the book industry’s claim on the attention of government lay primarily in its cultural role, pointing out that book industries in many countries ‘have become a focus for public policy because … they provide a link between the production of economic benefits and the generation of cultural value’ (BICC 2013, 47). Thus the Council devoted a section of its report to discussing the ways in which books contribute to the development of literary and broader culture, and to pointing out that the cultural importance of the Australian book industry is manifest at all points in the supply chain from author to reader (BICC 2013, 47–49).

The weeks surrounding the submission of the BICC Report to government were a period of considerable political turmoil, in which the Prime Minister changed from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd, and responsibility for the Industry portfolio was returned to Senator Carr. Not surprisingly, Carr was strongly supportive of the Council’s recommendations, but there was no time for any formal response from the Government; an election date had been set, after which the caretaker period ensued. At the election on 7 September 2013 the Labor Government was defeated, and was replaced by a conservative administration led by Tony Abbott.

Mid-2013 proved to be an inauspicious time for Australian cultural policy. It was not only the BICC Report that was consigned to the political wilderness as a result of the change of government. The same fate befell the Labor Government’s long-awaited cultural policy report Creative Australia, which had been released in May (Commonwealth of Australia 2013); this document was the culmination of a long process of analysis, consultation and policy development undertaken under the direction of the then Arts Minister, Simon Crean. It represented the most comprehensive effort to spell out an Australian cultural policy since Creative Nation, the Keating Government’s cultural policy of 20 years earlier (Commonwealth of Australia 1994). The Creative Australia report deals with all the arts; it makes reference to the book industry as a significant cultural sector in the economy (Commonwealth of Australia 2013, 92), and to books as an important contributor to Australian cultural life.

One of the most important tasks of the BICC was to assess options for moving towards a self-sustaining industry body to carry through the needed reforms. The Council recommended establishment of a body to be called the Book Industry Council of Australia (BICA), to be funded jointly by the industry associations, with possibly some seed money from government (BICC 2013, 50–52). The fate of this recommendation is discussed in the next section.

Recent Developments

When a government changes, it is not uncommon for the new administration to discard policy initiatives of their predecessors, either by explicitly reversing or repudiating them, or simply by ignoring them. In the cultural arena, for example, the incoming Howard Government in 1996 dismantled what remained of Creative Nation. Similarly, the Coalition Government that took office in September 2013 effectively buried Creative Australia. Likewise the BICC Report’s proposals were not commented upon by the new government—there was no launch of the report, no media publicity, no stimulus to public, or even to industry, awareness. The BICC Report was a major resource to guide processes of book industry reform, but a strategy for their implementation needed a focal point to coordinate the necessary action. Such a focal point was intended to be provided by the proposed BICA.

In the early months of 2014 an informal group that included several former members of the BICC met on several occasions with a view to pushing the BICA proposal forward. It was thought that a case could be put to government for funding to help establish a Book Council if the rationale for such a case were cultural rather than economic. The prospect that such a case would be listened to was boosted by the fact that the new Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, was widely known for his devotion to books and his literary interests.

Accordingly, in October 2014, two members of the group met with Senator Brandis to press the argument for a Book Council.3 The Minister confirmed that the book industry was much more likely to receive a sympathetic hearing from Government if it was ‘sailing under my flag’ rather than being located in the Industry portfolio. At the same time, officials from the Department of Industry re-affirmed that, as far as they were concerned, there was nothing special about the book industry and that it would be treated the same as any other manufacturing sector wanting to claim industry assistance. The outcome of these discussions was that policy responsibility for the Australian book industry effectively moved from the Industry to the Arts portfolio, and the focus of book policy was transferred from economic policy to cultural policy.

On 8 December 2014 the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards ceremony was held in Melbourne at a dinner in the National Gallery of Victoria, an unusually lavish event in accordance with suggestions that the awards should have a more prominent profile in promoting Australian writing and publishing in the public arena. In his speech to the assembled book industry players, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced that his Government would set up a Book Council of Australia, with funding of $2 million per year over three years. The industry’s joy at this announcement was considerably soured when it was also learned on the same evening that this funding would not be new money but would be taken from the Australia Council budget.

The Minister for the Arts ignored continuing criticism of these funding arrangements and proceeded with planning for the new Book Council in the first months of 2015. A chair and members were appointed, objectives were laid out, and governance and operational issues for the new body were decided.4 However, before the Council could hold its first meeting, further political turmoil ensued—this time on the coalition side—resulting in the replacement of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister and, in due course, the removal of Senator Brandis as Minster for the Arts.

The ceremony for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, held at Carriageworks in Sydney on 14 December, was a much less opulent affair than the previous year’s. In his speech, Turnbull managed to alienate the entire book industry, first by declaring that he supported the Productivity Commission’s latest recommendation to scrap the PIRs, and then by announcing that the Book Council would be abolished.5 He offered the gratuitous observation that authors would go on producing books regardless of these decisions. Hopes for the emergence of a rational book policy to sustain the industry into the future had proved to be short-lived.

During 2016–17 there has been little to report on the cultural policy front. The book industry associations have found themselves having yet again to fight the same battle against the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on copyright (Productivity Commission 2016). Most of the funding that had been taken away from the Australia Council was eventually returned, but Australia remained without a formal cultural policy at the national level, and with the Book Council gone there was no specific government policy towards books. In these circumstances it is appropriate to ask the question: what should Australian book industry policy look like? If the BICC blueprint for industry-led reforms were implemented, what, if any, role would remain for government?

Book Policy: Is There a Future?

An ideal policy towards any cultural industry is one that acknowledges the complementarities between the economic and the cultural value of the industry’s output.6 In considering the make-up of such a policy, we can leave aside the usual arguments that industries make for government assistance relating to protection of employment, job creation, regional issues and so on which, as we have noted, are not likely to elevate books to the head of the queue of industries demanding attention. Instead we can focus on general principles that underlie a possible case for public assistance to a cultural industry. Two possibilities are indicated: an economic case and a cultural case.

In terms of economics, a rationale for public intervention in support of any industry may exist if it can be shown that the industry gives rise to positive externalities or public-good benefits that are not captured in private-market processes. This argument is frequently made in regard to the arts in general, when it is suggested that the existence of literature, the theatre, music, museums, galleries, and so on, gives people a sense of pride and satisfaction from knowing that they live in a civilised society, even if they don’t actually partake of these cultural experiences themselves. In formal terms, such benefits are defined as being non-excludable (no-one can be excluded from enjoying them) and non-rival (one person’s enjoyment of the benefit does not diminish the amount available for others). The economic case for intervention relies on its being possible to show that the benefits of intervention outweigh the costs involved. Since this is an economic argument, the benefits must be expressed in financial terms, enabling comparison with the financial costs of whatever level of public subsidy or other assistance is to be recommended. Estimating a monetary value for these benefits can be achieved via a survey of the relevant population in which respondents are asked about their perception of these benefits and their willingness to pay for them, for example out of their taxes.7 This justification could be made in support of the book industry if the above conditions apply i.e. if book publishing in Australia does indeed give rise to these diffused community benefits and the public is prepared to pay for them.

There is another economic argument sometimes invoked to rationalise government support for a cultural industry: the so-called ‘merit good’ argument. A merit good is defined in economic terms as something the government considers to be so intrinsically worthy that it should be supplied regardless of whether or not people demand it (Musgrave 1990). In formal terms, the process is described as one of preference imposition, i.e. the government’s assessment of the worthiness of the good is sufficient to justify its provision, and hence it is the government’s preference rather than the consumers’ that determines the consequent resource allocation. It can be suggested that there are elements of a merit-good attitude reflected in the former Arts Minister’s approach to the arts in general and to books in particular—Senator Brandis made no secret of the nature of his tastes in art, music and literature, and his preferences clearly influenced his policy decisions. Despite their descriptive appeal, however, there can be little normative justification for merit-good arguments in a democracy; they are relevant only in dictatorships or other authoritarian political systems.

Turning to the cultural case for government policy towards books, we return to the arguments discussed earlier that were put forward in both the BISG and BICC reports regarding the contribution of books to Australian culture. It can be seen immediately that these arguments are not unrelated to the public-good case outlined above, since, presumably, people’s recognition or non-recognition of the cultural value of Australian books will underlie their perceptions of a public-good benefit and, hence, will influence their willingness to pay for it. But here we focus on non-monetary assessments of value, in line with the proposition that the cultural value of books, as of other cultural goods, is calibrated against qualitative scales relating to such attributes as their aesthetic value, their capacity to stimulate reflective thought, their social significance, their educational importance, and so on. These sorts of considerations do affect politicians, who generally recognise that their collective responsibilities extend beyond economic management, notwithstanding the dominance of economic objectives in determining most governments’ political agendas. Such responsibilities include maintenance of a civilised and cultured society, where quality of life and non-material values are respected. To the extent that these obligations are accepted, cultural policy can claim a seat at the table in its own right, and not simply as an arm of economic policy. This being so, an appeal to books’ cultural value can be admitted as a valid argument for government policy concern.

So much for general principles; how do they play out in the practical world of policy-making? An obvious question at the outset is: how do we define the Australian book industry? Or, which part of it would warrant assistance on any of the grounds we have discussed? From the Government’s point of view it seems clear that the issue is likely to be resolved on nationalistic grounds, i.e. for policy purposes the Australian book industry will be taken to comprise those industry participants who are themselves Australian, or who make, facilitate or receive a cultural contribution that is specifically Australian; one would not expect the Australian Government to be willing, for example, to finance the expression of Indian culture by Indian writers for consumption solely by Indian consumers (except as a form of foreign aid, perhaps). Nationalism may be an outmoded, divisive and dangerous concept in an increasingly globalised world, but for internal political purposes it continues to determine how policies across the board are framed.

Under such a regime, suitable candidates for Australian book industry support more or less define themselves. They include, not in any order of priority:

Australian authors, whether or not writing in Australia or on Australian subjects;

Australian publishers, whether local independents or Australian-based subsidiaries of international publishing houses;

Non-Australian authors or publishers writing or publishing books on Australian subjects;

Australian readers;

Overseas readers of Australian books such as may be pursued via Australian representation at international book fairs;

Other Australian literary professionals such as editors or agents;

Australian booksellers if they are regarded as essential for the promotion of Australian culture;

Literary festivals held in Australia; and

Book industry organisations such as authors’ and publishers’ associations.

However, as obvious as the dimensions of the Australian book industry from a pragmatic policy perspective may seem (as noted above), definitions become problematic if attention is focused on a subset of Australian books, i.e. those contributing to what is generally known as Australian literary culture,8 both fiction and non-fiction, on the grounds that literary works have the strongest claim to cultural content. There has been exhaustive debate as to whether a definable field that can be labelled ‘Australian literature’ continues to exist or, indeed, whether it ever did. Issues raised in this debate concern whether there are canonical works in Australian literature and, if so, whether they should form part of an English curriculum in schools and universities;9 whether the work of Australian writers living overseas or of non-Australian authors writing about Australian subjects can be counted as Australian literature;10 whether Australian literature has been absorbed into an internationalised literary landscape in which national literatures no longer have meaning (Dixon 2007; Dixon and Rooney 2013); what genres might or might not be counted (Gelder 2000); whether a critical intellectual tradition has helped to define the field (Carter 2000); or, finally, whether the idea of Australian literature can rise above these concerns and survive as a recognisable and distinctive field of cultural endeavour (Birns 2015).

Certainly the concept of a distinctive Australian literature has driven Australia Council grant programs ever since their establishment and is consistent with the Council’s statutory obligations to foster excellence in and access to the Australian arts. In the end it may be that the alternative concept of ‘Australian writing’ may be a more flexible notion—one that, as David Carter suggests, has the added virtue of ‘bridging the gap between industry and policy’ (Carter 2016, 56).

Whatever the outcome of discussions among literary scholars concerning the existence or otherwise of Australian literary culture, it is useful to challenge the question of support for an Australian book industry and the concept of Australian literary culture in the court of public opinion. A recent survey of readers, undertaken as part of an ARC-funded project on the Australian book industry in the Department of Economics at Macquarie University,11 throws some light on two aspects of these questions: whether there is community approval for the provision of public support for an Australian book industry, and whether a recognition of a distinctive Australian literature influences consumers’ reading choices.

In regard to public awareness of and support for the industry, the survey found an appreciable level of agreement with statements about the cultural dimensions of the book industry and its importance in Australia’s cultural life. For example, about two thirds of respondents agreed with the proposition that an Australian book industry is part of Australian culture and that books by Australian writers about Australian subjects help us understand ourselves and our country, even if the respondents didn’t necessarily read such books themselves. Just over half agreed that there should be public funding for Australian writing, and 59 per cent thought it important that books written by Australian authors be published in Australia. About 65 per cent were willing to make a voluntary contribution to a fund to support Australian authors. Overall the results of this component of the study ‘point towards a generally positive attitude in the community towards some level of public support for Australian writers and publishers in the production of Australian books’ (Throsby, Zwar and Morgan 2017, 17).

The question of a distinctly Australian literature was pursued by asking respondents about their attitudes to books by Australian authors, including books set in Australian settings. About one-third of respondents expressed a clearly positive attitude towards Australian-authored fiction, somewhat fewer for non-fiction by local writers. But almost half of respondents said they don’t think much about it, and a further 20 per cent said they didn’t know or couldn’t say. As for books with Australian settings, between 40 and 50 per cent of respondents said they like such books a little or a lot, with about one-third indicating that they didn’t care one way or the other. In other words, although there is some appreciation of specifically Australian books in the community, there are significant numbers who don’t particularly care about, or even recognise, this characteristic when choosing books.

The survey also looked at attitudes to literary fiction as a specific genre. Just under half of respondents indicated a liking for literary classics, and a slightly larger proportion said they liked literary fiction by contemporary writers. Just under half of respondents expressed a liking for literary fiction specifically by Australian writers, past and present; more than half of respondents agreed that such books were important for Australian culture. It was found that age was an important factor in determining preference, with older readers liking literary classics and literary fiction by contemporary writers, and younger readers showing little interest in literary fiction by Australian writers. A similar age-related response was evident in opinions about the importance of Australian literary works for Australian culture. These results appear to reflect uncertainties among young people concerning the term ‘literary’ as well as a lack of interest in or comprehension of a concept of Australian literary culture.


Can we draw any conclusions from the evolution of Australian book industry policy in recent times, if such a phrase can be used to describe the haphazard trajectory of the public sector’s involvement with the book industry over these years? Certainly there was a period of purposeful progress, when the government brought industry representatives together for two successive processes to discuss the industry’s difficulties and to propose remedies. And the industry body that was set up in response to these processes had every prospect of carrying these remedies forward, if only its life had not been prematurely terminated. So an assessment of the situation at the time of writing can be summarised in the words of the ancient cliché: so near and yet so far. The foundations have been laid in detail for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to Australian book industry policy through the strategies articulated first by the BISG and then reformulated and elaborated by the BICC. Implementation of the policy blueprint put forward in the BICC Report could enhance the industry’s economic contribution at the same time as celebrating and advancing the essential role of books in our cultural life. All that is lacking, now, is a willingness to put these proposals into effect.


With the usual caveat, I express my thanks to Louise Adler, Michael Webster and Jan Zwar for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Works Cited

Australian Government 2012, Book Industry Strategy Group Report: Government Response. Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Canberra.

Australian Publishers Association 2014, Submission on the Competition Policy Review Draft Report. APA, Ultimo.

Birns, N 2015, Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead. Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Book Industry Collaborative Council 2013, Final Report. Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Canberra.

Book Industry Strategy Group 2011, Final Report to Government. Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Canberra.

Canoy, M, Van Ours, JC, & Van Der Ploeg, F 2006, ‘The Economics of Books’, in V Ginsburgh & D Throsby (eds) Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture Vol. 1, North-Holland/Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 721–761.

Carter, D 2000, ‘Critics, Writers, Intellectuals: Australian Literature and Its Criticism’, in E Webby (ed), Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 258–293.

——— 2016, ‘The Literary Field and Contemporary Trade-Book Publishing in Australia: Literary and Genre Fiction’, Media International Australia vol. 158, no. 1, pp. 48–57.

Commonwealth of Australia 1994, Creative Nation: Commonwealth Cultural Policy. Department of Communications and the Arts, Canberra.

——— 2013, Creative Australia: National Cultural Policy. Australian Government, Canberra.

Connor, S 1992, Theory and Cultural Value. Blackwell, Oxford.

Cuccia, T 2011, ‘Contingent Valuation’, in R Towse, (ed), Handbook of Cultural Economics, 2nd edn, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 90–99.

Dixon, R 2007, ‘Australian Literature—International Contexts’, Southerly, vol. 67, nos. 1–2, pp. 15–27.

——— & Rooney, B (eds) 2013. Scenes of Reading: Is Australian Literature a World Literature? Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne.

Gelder, K 2000, ‘Recovering Australian Popular Fiction: Towards the End of Australian Literature’, Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, pp. 112–120.

Glover, S 2015, ‘When They Come to Save Books, What Will They Save?’, Overland, 218, Autumn.

Hassall, T 2011, ‘Whatever Happened to Australian Literature in the Universities?’, Quadrant, vol. 55, no. 10, pp. 30–34.

Heiss, A 2008, ‘What Makes Australian Literature Australian?’ blog accessible at

Hutter, M & Throsby, D (eds) 2008, Beyond Price: Value in Culture, Economics, and the Arts. Cambridge University Press, New York.

McLean Davies, L 2008, ‘Telling Stories: Australian Literature in a National English Curriculum’, English in Australia, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 45–51.

Musgrave, R 1990, ‘Merit Goods’, in G Brennan & C Walsh (eds), Rationality, Individualism, and Public Policy, Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations, Australian National University, Canberra, pp. 207–210.

Productivity Commission 2009, Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books: Productivity Commission Research Report. Productivity Commission, Canberra.

——— 2016, Intellectual Property Arrangements: Productivity Commission Inquiry Report. Productivity Commission, Canberra.

Snowball, J 2011, ‘Cultural Value’, in R Towse (ed), Handbook of Cultural Economics, 2nd edn, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 172–176.

Throsby, D 2001, Economics and Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

———, Zwar, J & Morgan, C 2017, Australian Book Readers: Survey Method and Results. Macquarie University Department of Economics Research Report No. 20.

1Since 2012, the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Booksellers Association have entered into an industry-wide agreement known as the Speed to Market Initiative, voluntarily reducing the 30/90-day rule to 14/14. See Australian Publishers Association (2014, 3).

2It should also be noted that both the BISG and the BICC processes were supported by excellent and well-resourced secretariat services provided by the Department.

3The two members were Louise Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Publishing and President of the Australian Publishers Association, and the present author.

4It was thought that the Book Council might be able to fulfil some of the functions for the book industry such as promotion, exports, training, data collection etc. that were beyond the resources or remit of the Australia Council’s grant programs for literature. For some further speculations as to what the proposed Council might achieve, see Glover (2015).

5The formal announcement was made in the 2015 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released the following day, which also contained other cuts to arts funding.

6Whether such an ideal policy exists in other countries is debatable. For instance, a number of European countries, including in particular France and Germany, rely on fixed book price arrangements, whereby publishers set a price and discounting is severely restricted or prohibited. The effects of such a policy on competition, efficiency and authors’ rights are unclear. See further in Canoy et al. (2006).

7The appropriate methodology for estimation of non-market values is contingent valuation; for an overview of applications in art, culture and heritage, see Cuccia (2011).

8Thus excluding non-literary Australian books like technical manuals, cookbooks, travel guides, etc.

9As discussed in a roundtable on the study of Australian literature in schools and universities hosted by the Australia Council on 7 August 2007; see further, for example, in McLean Davies (2008) and Hassall (2011).

10See, for example, discussion on ‘What makes Australian literature Australian’, Brisbane Writers Festival, sponsored by AustLit, September 2008; see Heiss (2008).

11The survey of Australian adult readers, their attitudes and behaviour is reported in Throsby, Zwar and Morgan (2017). Descriptions of results of the survey as reported in the following paragraphs are taken from this publication, where more detail of the data quoted may be found.

Publishing Means Business

   by Aaron Mannion, Millicent Weber and Katherine Day