Australian version of Amazon?

A friend of mine (an avid reader) is living in Sydney for a year and I had hoped to send him a gift certificate for his birthday so that he could order some books.

I had ignorantly assumed there was an Australian Amazon, but a web search tells me I was wrong.

I’ve Googled and found a couple of online companies that claim to be “the most popular” Australian book dealers, but wondered if there are any Dopers from the land down under who might have a recommendation.

My friend is attending school (I believe at the University of Sydney, but I’m not sure). I want to make sure it’s easy for him to order and receive his books, but if there’s a bricks-and-mortar bookstore from which I could also get a gift certificate through online means, that might be helpful as well.

Where do Australians buy their books? Any suggestions from those in the know would be much appreciated.

I know my sister back there had mentioned ordering things from the Book Depository, which now that I look at it appears to be UK based but doesn’t charge shipping.

I’m Australian, I buy from Amazon. Usually the US one, occasionally the UK one.

Australian bricks-and-mortar bookshops are very expensive, which is why the internet is putting them out of business.

Wow. I appreciate the advice — really I do — but frankly, I’m also disappointed. I think it would confuse my friend if I were to send a gift certificate for a U.S.-based or U.K.-based book-seller. I mean, the whole point would be to treat him to books from Australia.

Has anyone ever used Dymocks or Booktopia?

The book buying situation in Australia is a complete disgrace.

But having said that, if you want to buy your friend a certificate from a local store I’d go with Dymocks. They’re a large reputable retailer in Oz, with plenty of store locations. I only occasionally buy physical books anymore, and it’s generally Dymocks I get them from.

I’ve never used Booktopia, so can’t comment on them.

I agree: the book publishers and distributors have a cozy monopoly, and as a result book prices are much higher than they are in the UK or the US.

However, for someone living in Sydney, another decent bookshop is Abbeys, which is about a block and a half away from Dymocks in the CBD.

These days you only buy books in Australia if you need it straight away, otherwise Amazon or Book Depository in the UK is the way to go.

If your friend likes Sci Fi, Fantasy or Horror you could take a look at Galaxy Books also in Sydney.

Agreed - local stores are hopeless. Poor range, expensive, and shipping costs are often no cheaper. (And publishers do their best to keep e-book prices high here too).

Book Depository wins on shipping costs and speed. Amazon has more choice but shipping to Australia are quite high, and they seem to be getting slower.

Rumour has it Amazon is working on an Australian warehouse, which might improve things, but I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.

I’d go with a local Sydney store like Abbeys. Dymocks is fine if your friend likes Twilight.

All been said but if you do want to give him a decent voucher I would go with ABC Shop. They have a good range of reading that is not so mainstream.

If you have a Kindle in Australia, can you buy e-books from Amazon at regular US prices? Or is there some mechanism whereby they charge more for purchases made from Australian IP addresses?

No, the Kindle prices we get here are, I believe, higher than in the US. Amazon recognises me as being in Australia, having bought from them for years so I can’t actually see what prices US customers are charged but I’ve been involved in some discussions on their forum.

The prices are controlled by the publishers here. It’s a total ripoff that an e-book can cost more than a paperback or, in some cases, a hardcover book.

What jabiru said. Example, all prices in $USD:

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, Kindle USA: $11.99
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, hardcover: $14.60
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, Kindle AU: $15.87

Cormac McCarthy, The Road, Kindle USA: $11.99
Cormac McCarthy, The Road, Kindle AU: not available at all

There was an interesting thread in IMHO last month on Australian retailing, with lots of good examples and analysis. As to why there isn’t there a ‘local’ branch of AMazon etc. in Australia - the answer’s almost certainly to avoid sales taxes.

As a New Zealander I’m in the same situation (actually even worse), in fact since I started buying online, I don’t think I’ve bought a book from a local bookshop at all (and I buy too many books).

Doubtful. Sales tax in the UK is higher, yet there’s

I remember an article from quite a few years back that said Amazon had looked into it, and decided local delivery costs were too high. Given that it’s often cheaper to post something from the UK to Sydney, than to post the same thing from Melbourne to Sydney, I think that’s probably a bigger factor.

Also, it seems they are planning an Australian warehouse. But given the situation with Australian publishers, I suspect the result will be higher prices, not lower.

Another vote for The Book Depository in the UK. It’s where I buy all my (new, physical) books. Much cheaper than buying in Australia - often less than half the price you would pay in a book store. Quick, free postage too. (Well, free as in “already factored into the price”, but the prices are always low and you don’t pay any more than what you see when you’re browsing.)

Oh. I’ve just checked the site and they don’t do gift certificates.

I’ll agree with those above who recommend Dymock’s as the best large bookseller here. There are a number of great smaller bookstores though; Gleebooks, Better Read Than Dead, Elizabeth’s to name a few.

There is no sales tax per se in Australia, and hasn’t been since 2000, just a Goods and Services Tax of 10%. I doubt that has any effect on whether they institute a local site and distribution centre.

BTW Amazon do have a presence in Australia, but so far only a data centre as part of their cloud offerings.

Don’t forget, too, the issue of market size, population, and isolation. Admittedly, this shouldn’t be an issue with e-books, but for physical goods it makes a difference.

Australia is about 30 times the size of the United Kingdom, but has barely one-third the population of the UK. Australia is the same size as the continental United States, with only about 6% of the US population. I live in Southern California, and within about a three-hour drive of my house is a population equal to that of the whole of Australia.

All of this stuff is significant when it comes to setting up something like an Amazon warehouse. The size and wealth of the market here in the United States means that it is far easier, in terms of economics, for a company like Amazon to set up huge distribution centers with tens or hundreds of thousands of products. Economies of scale allow Amazon in America to stock such a wide variety of items because the sheer size of the market means that there is some demand even for relatively unpopular items. The same economies of scale also allow Amazon to ship all over the United States from a relatively small number of large distribution centers.

Setting up something similar in Australia would be far more difficult, because the relatively small size of the market would mean disproportionate overhead for any company that wanted to supply the range of goods that Amazon provides. If a company like Amazon were to set up shop in Australia, you can be sure that the variety of items in stock would be far below what the company can maintain in the United States or the UK. It would be much more likely to focus on a narrower range of particularly popular and/or profitable items. And none of this even takes into account the costs, for some items, of getting the merchandise to Australia in the first place.

I’m not arguing that the high prices for books in Australia are necessarily justified. Even when i lived there, over a decade ago, i was always conscious of how much more i paid for books in Australia than buyers in the US were paying. I’m sure that the “cozy monopoly” mentioned by Giles is also a factor here. But even if all of this were eliminated, Australia’s size and population mean that it would likely not benefit from economies of scale in the way that the US or even the UK do.

AND we will be locked out from buying from the US or UK sites, I believe.

I discovered Booktopia earlier this year, and I love it. In fact, I came into the thread to recommend it.

Wow, I had no idea.

Well, thank you for all the advice and information about the state of book-retailing in Australia. I will have to think about what to do for my friend.

Again, thanks!