Which seems appropriate as the messenger – the Productivity Commission report on book prices –  is the message.

Henry Rosenbloom, publisher and founder of the independent press Scribe, has written a stinging takedown of the report’s conclusions in his blog.

Here are some extracts:

Sociopaths in Suits: the Productivity Commission goes for broke

This is how a civilisation commits suicide these days: it invites sociopaths in suits to dismantle its culture.

With its recommendation that territorial copyright for books be abandoned, the Productivity Commission’s final report is the apotheosis of neo-liberalism in Australia. Everything is to be sacrificed to the workings of the free market — especially writers, independent booksellers, independent publishers, and the nation’s cultural integrity.

In its study of comparative book prices, the commission has not included the cost of overseas freight. This crucial fact is hidden in the commission’s language: it says that it ‘has not sought to adjust retail prices to reflect differences in freight costs’. These are highly misleading weasel words, so close to a lie as to be indistinguishable from one. The commission hasn’t excluded ‘differences’ in freight costs — it has excluded them completely. And yet the cost of shipping books from the UK or US to Australia is significant, and would be a vital factor in the setting of book prices if the commission’s recommendations were accepted. At average freight-costs and at current exchange rates, overseas books would be more expensive than locally produced ones — not less.

This is why the commission has been forced to concede that its price comparisons, ‘do not of themselves attempt to indicate the price at which the books sold in other countries could have been sold in Australia’.

Read it here.

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