Yesterday Small Business Minister Nick Sherry predicted the demise of mainstream book stores within five years. The high Australian dollar, and the rise of online shopping are touted as being behind this.
The third nail in this supposed coffin is the local price of local product.
Currently in Australia the Copyright Act restricts parallel importation of books into Australia, to protect the publishers ability to support local culture and local writers.
As Bob Carr pointed out in 2009, effectively Australian consumers are forced to subsidise local literature through higher prices for all books, unlike virtually all other countries.
The likely outcome of all this is not the death of physical walk-in book stores in Australia, but their evolution into something that better meets the changing needs of the consumer.
Fiive years ago, the video rental store was imminently closing forever, under the pressure from on-line sales, rentals and downloads.
Ten years ago, the local music store was about to shut up shop, under the onslaught of convenient digital music.
Sixty years ago the wireless was soon to be rendered obsolete by the television.
Ultimately, there is co-existance, realignment and rationalisation. Some music stores closed. Some video rental stores closed. Industry commentators admit that yes, there probably were too many video rental stores. Now there are about the right amount – profits are up, business is booming, but not in the same way as before.
Book stores – and the market for physical books – will need to evolve to survive.