Bookseller Briefing 34/17 – week ending 25 August

The Bookseller orange

Australia to tax online overseas book orders

Australia will reportedly begin a 10% tax on books ordered online from within Australia and shipped from abroad.

Beginning in July 2018, the new regulation follows lobbying from the country’s retailers and the Australian Booksellers Association according to Publishers Weekly. The trade body has argued that its members are disadvantaged under the current tax system.

Booksellers claim that overseas companies were taking advantage of a regulation placing taxes only on imported items shipped from abroad valued at $1,000 or more. This has left items below the threshold, such as books, tax free.

The new legislation will extend the 10% tax to “low value” goods including those costing $1, and must be collected by companies $75,000 of goods or more a year.

Amazon was one of the companies opposing the law and claimed it to be “unworkable” and overly complex. It is expected to open Australian based business next.

The Australian Booksellers Association’s c.e.o Joel Becker praised the new regulation. He said: “I congratulate the Australian Government and praise all those within the books community and the broader business sector who collaborated so effectively on this long campaign.”

Last year, the association joined with other Australian book industry organisations to protest changes proposed by the government to turn the country into an “open market” and allow booksellers to import both UK and US titles without restrictions.

Amazon.com book sales up 46% in 2017, says report

Amazon.com’s book sales grew 46% to $3bn (£2.33bn) in the first half of 2017, while e-book sales increased 6% to $750m, making the book sector a “stable contributor” to the company’s overall success, according to e-commerce company One Click Retail.

One Click Retail uses a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software to estimate weekly online sales figures for Amazon. Its research determined that Amazon.com netted $136bn (£105.8bn) worth of sales across all categories in 2016. Of this total, it estimated that Amazon’s print book sales amounted to $4.7bn and e-book sales were $1.4bn in 2016.

In the first half of 2017, One Click Retail estimated that print book sales grew by 46% to $3bn (£2.33bn) compared to the same period in 2016 ($2bn). The children’s books category was the highlight of the first halves of 2016 and 2017 alike, with a 45% year-on-year growth up from $320m (£249m) to $460m (£357m) in 2017, due to the success of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Little, Brown).

The next top performing print book category on Amazon.com was religion and spirituality, which saw a 55% year-on-year growth rate from $200m (£155m) sales in the first half of 2016 to $315m (£245m) in 2017.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the retailer’s bestselling title of 2016, according to One Click Retail, while the Harry Potter complete paperback book set came in second place. StrengthsFinder by Tom Ruth was third and fourth was Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Rounding out the top five was The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig.

Sales of e-books meanwhile experienced a 6% year-on-year increase from $710m (£552m) in the first half of 2016 to $750m (£583m) in the same period in 2017. Top selling e-books in order were Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, Camino Island by John Grisham, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and James Patterson’s The Black Book.

In the UK, Amazon’s print book sales for the first half of 2017 grossed £360m, according to One Click Retail. The top three Amazon print book sellers in the UK – Mary Berry Everyday (BBC Books), Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet (Bloomsbury), Lean in 15: The Shift Plan by Joe Wicks (Bluebird) – show non-fiction lifestyle titles are popularThis is in keeping with Amazon Summer Trends report which revealed the 10 bestselling print titles for the first six months of 2017 were dominated by non-fiction titles.

Meanwhile, e-books grossed £100m in the UK for the first half of 2017 with bestsellers Night School by Lee Child (Bantam), Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (Faber), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday), Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (Penguin) and The Gift by Louise Jensen (Bookouture). According to One Click Retail, crime, thrillers and mystery is the most popular category for e-books.