On 8 August, just a day after the Australian Literature in Education Roundtable in Canberra. the news broke that Angus & Robertson Booksellers (A&R) were proposing to charge small to medium sized publishers a "non profitability" fee. A&R had reviewed its suppliers and decided it had too many of them and some of them didn't generate the profit levels the owners of A&R, the private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, feel is desirable. Therefore, if these suppliers wanted their books stocked in A&R stores they would have to make a payment to increase A&R's profit level. Payments of between $1,500 and $45,000 were demanded in an invoice sent with the letter announcing A&R's unilateral change of trading terms.
The correspondence from A&R, with a response from Tower Books distributors can be read by clicking on the title to this blog entry.
The ASA and the Australian Publishers Association (APA) immediately protested A&R's actions, since Australian authors (like Miles Franklin award winner Alexis Wright) were affected.
The support we have received was overwhelming. Weekly Book Newsletter produced a special edition noting the unprecedented industry response.
We have also received messages of support like this one from Mark Carthew : "Small and medium sized publishers who are a critical mainstay of support to Australian writers, illustrators and book creators will be totally disenfranchised by these tactics and only the big conglomerates will be able to compete. They will support overseas initiated products and almost certainly cheap import dumping. These methods that can only be described as akin to extortion, and should be viewed as such by the community. Our industry is in dire trouble if this tactic goes unchallenged ... I applaud the APA and ASA for taking such a quick stand to uphold the values and integrity of our industry".
It has been suggested that the Australian Society of Authors and like-minded organisations such as PEN institute a "buy Australian authors" campaign to highlight the fact that our national litearture faces perils ranging from lack of attention in education to cost impositions in bookstores.
What do you think? Let me know through your comments