Thursday, September 18, 2008

A&R Installs First Espresso Book Machine in Australian Market

Angus & Robertson Australia's largest book retailer is heading a group that will place up to 50 Espresso Book Machines in their stores over the next two years. A&R says they will initially offer 20,000 mainly Australian hard to find and out of print titles but expect that title list to exceed 100,000 over the next few years.

The EBM has been mentioned here before (particularly in its implementation in Canada) and the machine continues to roll out steadily in the US. This implementation in Australia could be transformative because of how the Australian market works. The three partners in this effort; A&R, Central Book Services and EBM may have the market power to fundamentally change the book market in Australia.

Firstly, because the market is relatively small there the market for titles written by and for the Australian market is quite small (somewhat similar to Canada); therefore, sheer economics prevent a broad based industry. Implementing an on-demand solution could lower the profit threshold considerably resulting in a more vibrant indigenous publishing program. Secondly, the Australian market is seen as an important but secondary market for US and UK publishers. As a result, decisions are not always taken with respect to the Australian market by overseas corporate offices that are in the best interests of the Australian market. For example, decisions related to price or availability. Sometimes a title is made available only via the foreign entity or because the local publishing division can not promise a market for the title. (Some of these issues are far less a problem than they used to be).

Thirdly, particularly in education and professional publishing the unit sales levels of many titles can be counted in the tens or hundreds. These levels are simply not high enough to stock locally. So if orders are placed with a local publisher the delivery dates could be months rather than days because the title has to be sourced from the overseas corporate parent. The sad thing is many customers (university booksellers and libraries) bypass the local publisher and buy from B&T or Amazon. From these vendors, the title can be delivered in days and yes, that's air freighted in with costs added.

Implementing EBM can start to solve some of these inefficiencies in the Australian bookseller and publisher market. In the process, revenue that had been going overseas might return to local suppliers and publishers - those owners of the local publishing rights - and the total market might become more expansive delivering a much wider inventory of products than could be conceivable today (or yesterday).

Those interested in learning more about this initiative should contact Central Book Services especially if you are interested in adding your titles to the inventory. Contact Warren Broom on 03-92107804 or wbroom @

Sydney Morning Herald

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