Why is it cheaper to post a book from overseas than within Australia? Australia Post, the Royal Mail and the cost of shipping books
Written by Eloise Keating; extract published here with the kind permission of BOOKSELLER + PUBLISHER.
The Australian book community is well aware of the growing importance of international online retailers such as Amazon and UK-based the Book Depository (which could soon become one company if a proposed acquisition by Amazon gets the green light from regulators in the UK). The industry knows that the number of Australian consumers buying books from these retailers is increasing and know the key reason for this is price.
One topic that invariably pops up in conversations about the Book Depository in particular is free shipping. The online bookseller has been offering free shipping to Australia (and other territories) since it was founded in 2004. Recently, many of these conversations have included a reference to a ‘special deal’ that the Book Depository allegedly has with the UK postal service, Royal Mail. On May 29 this year, Melissa Fyfe wrote in the Age that the Book Depository ‘can ship books internationally for free because of a discount deal it has with the Royal Mail’, but offered no further details about the arrangement. On one hand, some say the British Government offered the Book Depository concessions for setting up its business in an underprivileged area, while on the other, there are suggestions that the retailer enjoys free postage as a way of encouraging British exports. Some members of the local industry have taken this a step further and claimed that Australia Post is ‘subsidising’ the Book Depository as the organisation delivers millions of parcels that the retailer now ships into our country on behalf of Royal Mail.
But is there any truth in these claims? Here at BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER, we decided to look closer at the issue. Here is what we found …