The Price of Books in Australia

I went to Dymock's bookstore and took a zillion pictures of all the books in the romance section – which is separate from the paranormal romance section, interestingly enough – and of the sizes and prices of the books. When I got back to my hotel room, none of those pictures were on my camera. Where did they go? Is there some vortex that limits my ability to document the complete WTF that is Australian book prices? So went back again to take more, and funny enough I ended up with two sets of pictures. Oh, technology, you so weird.

Mind, the pictures of Louboutin shoes that I took earlier that day were all fine. My phone's camera has some very odd priorities that do not match my own. That said, the price extremity of Louboutin shoes vs. Australian paperback books are somewhat similar. Sticker shock might cause actual coronary emergencies in either case. So let's start with expensive shoes, one pair of which you could probably buy for the same price as all the books I'm about to show you.

Christian Louboutin shoes in a shop window. One pair is an ankle bootie that is pink and red suede in huge blocks over the front of the shoe. Really beautiful.


Shoes or books? I pick books, every time. 

A HUGE pallet stack of 50 Shades books, with all the 50-likes around it.


Everywhere I see books, I see Fifty Shades and Bared to You – which has a different cover in Australia:


Bared to You: a grey tone close up of a stiletto heel on a shoe.


This is the other side of the pallet of 50 Shades & 50-shadesinalia. It was about waist high on me, and I'm 5'3″.


Other side of the pallet of 50 Shades-inalia.


Mary Balogh's books are in what I was calling “hardback-lite” size. Nearly as big as a hardcover, but paperback. Also, the heroines are all half-headless.


Mary Balogh's


Each hardback-lite sized Balogh novel was $22.99 each.


Each one was $22.99.


Romance had its own section, and if you look in the background on the right of “True Crime”, you'll see the Paranormal Romance section, which was larger, and separate. 


There was a romance section, and a separate paranormal romance section.


Time to browse! Here's Jaci Burton's “The Heart of a Killer.” Guess the price! 


Time to browse! Here's Jaci Burton's


Survey says? $12.99. That's a slightly-larger-than-mass-market-sized book, I think.


Survey says? $12.99. That's a mass market-sized book, I think.


Stephanie Laurens shared an end-cap with Debbie Macomber, Christina Brooke, and Nora Roberts. These were all “hardback-lite” sized. 


Stephanie Laurens and other authors on an end-cap shelf display.


The Australian cover for The Lady Risks All.


The Australian cover for


The US cover looks like this, and is $7.99 in mass-market sized paperback:

The Lady Takes All - US Edition from Avon


If you'd like the Lady to Risk All in Australia, that'll be $24.99.





In Australia: $24.99.


Lisa Kleypas' novels have very different covers, and are hardback-lite sized as well.


Lisa Kleypas' novels have very different covers, and are hardback-lite sized as well. They're all photographs, many of people with their heads cropped off.


More Kleypas novels, with covers I would describe as “drippy.” 


More Lisa Kleypas, this time Secrets of a Summer Night and It Happened One Autumn, which is a very drippy photograph of a woman in a bonnet standing next to a lake.


Ready to guess the price? $19.99 each.


Ready to guess the price? $19.99 each.


Linda Lael Miller's Big Sky Mountain is a big ass book.


Linda Lael Miller Big Sky Mountain, big ass book.


Whaddya know, the price is big, too! 


Price: $29.99.


Side-by-side comparison of the hardback-lite and mass-market size. Every so often I would find a US edition mass market on the shelf alongside all the jumbo books. 


Side-by-side comparison of the hardback-lite and mass-market size.


Three out of four Nora Roberts heroines agree: eyes are overrated.


Three out of four Nora Roberts covers feature pictures of women cropped just below the eyes.


The Donovan Legacy – 2 of Roberts' Donovan books – in hardback-lite size. Ready to guess how much? 


The Donovan Legacy - 2 of Roberts' Donovan books - in hardback-lite size.




Jill Sorenson's Crash Into Me (sorry for the glare) has an interesting cover.


Jill Sorenson's Crash Into Me


Cost: $9.95.


This is one of three different covers I found for Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris: 


One of three different covers for


Here are the other two covers, plus a bottle of Tru-blood drink: 


The other two covers, plus a bottle of Tru-blood drink (ew).


The Anita Blake series has very interesting covers. Red frames around black and white images.


The Anita Blake series has very interesting covers. Red frames around black and white images.


The covers for the Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega are very different in Oz. I don't recall Anna having a gun. Or two guns. 


The Alpha/Omega covers are very different - silhouettes of a woman with a gun, or two guns.


Two different covers for Michelle Rowan's Tall, Dark & Fangsome.


Here's one feature of some Australian books I really liked. This is the cover of Jeaniene Frost's Halfway to the Grave:


Halfway to the Grave - Jeaniene Frost


And check out the back: there's a checklist of features. A big red check (or “tick,” as the Aussies say) means it's really gothic and action-packed, and the smaller black check means it's funny, sexy and romantic, but less so than it is gothic and action-packed.



A checklist on the back of the book proclaims the book action packed, and gothic.


Magic Bites has a different cover (and I'm not crazy about the look that model is giving me):


Magic Bites also has the chart of attributes on the back.


It also has the checklist of attributes. This book is more action-packed and sexy than it is romantic, gothic, or funny. I wonder if those are the only attributes used to describe paranormal romance or urban fantasy? 


Magic Bites also has the checklist of attributes.


This is the back of Magic Burns, another Kate Daniels book: 


More checkmarks describing the major themes and attributes of the book - gothic, romantic, action packed, funny and/or sexy.


I kinda wish these descriptors were on some American books! They're pretty handy, though as I've thought about it I'm not sure how accurate they are. 


One more comparison: Karen Marie Monings Shadowfever, with massmarket on the left, and hardback-lite on the right.


Shadowfever- mass market on the left, hardback-lite on the right.


And here are the back covers, with prices – and, in one case, plot descriptors – for $9.95 and $17.99. I wonder if it's a feeling of “YES! SCORE!” when you find the mass market size of the same book for $8 less. 


The massmarket is $9.95, and the hardback lite is $17.99.


Do you like the checkmarks of plot descriptions on the back? Do you think they could be applied to other genres successfully – or are they not entirely accurate or enough of a description here? I'm sort of torn. I like the quick-glimpse, but having read some of the Daniels books, I'm not sure I 100% agree. And do these prices seem high to you, or is this normal where you live? 


General Bitching...

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Liz says:

    For general knowledge, since I just went and looked it up, current conversion rates are as follows-
    $1.04 US = $1 AUS
    $1.59 US = £1 UK

    The prices seem insanely high. I hope Australia has an amazing library system, because living there I’d never buy any books. That said, depending on how you look at them prices in the UK aren’t great.  For example, the first book, “Then Comes Seduction” is $22.99 AUS, but is also listed at £8.99, which converts to $14.40 US. That’s a fairly standard price for UK paperbacks in my experience, and it adds up quick! However, the expense is due to conversion rate, so I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison.
    After 6 years living in the UK, I’ve got my solution down-pat. Whenever I travel back to the US I bring back a suitcase filled with books. Also, you can stuff as many books as you want into a carry-on without worrying about weight limits. Just be prepared for the security officers to stop you for inspection when the books are so dense that the x-ray machine can’t see through them…

  2. 2
    Lostshadows says:

    I like the idea of the check marks, but they’d probably be too limiting unless the publishers were willing to use different sets of descriptors for books that set doesn’t work for.

    Of course, things like sexy and funny are more subjective than action-packed is, so they’re also problematic that way.

    Those prices don’t seem that far off current US prices. I’m seeing more and more $9.99 mmpb, and the last large pb I bought was $19.99. (And 850 pgs, so it balanced out a bit.)

  3. 3
    Beccah W. says:

    This is worse than buying books in Canada! I grew up in Vermont, and often ran into Quebecois in the book stores because they just couldn’t stomach the prices north of the border. And to think that sometimes $7.99 is too much for me!

    As for the checks…a resounding ‘meh’. I’m not sure how helpful they are as its a personal decision whether something is “sexy” for not. Am I right? They are also kinda tacky in my opinion, and nothing bugs me worse than an ugly cover. (That’s not really true – a TSTL Hero or Heroine is the most annoying thing!)

  4. 4
    MissB2U says:

    I think we need to organize some sort of book sharing with our friends Down Under.  Those prices are insane!

  5. 5

    I thought my book buying habit was hard on my account here in the UK! O_O

    I wouldn’t get anything much at those prices!

  6. 6
    Sarah {CEFS} says:

    I know the prices of Aussie books all too well, because I have an Australian fiction addiction (they are publishing some great books down there). Most of my Australian reader friends order books from the U.K., because prices make it prohibitive to consume books at the pace they’d like (or we do book swamps, but it’s definitely not a 1-to-1 ratio).

    For what it’s worth, while I prefer to e-read, I love the “hardback-light” style books that are popular in Oz. They have the lightness of paperbacks but don’t have the tiny print and cheap-o paper of most American p-backs.

  7. 7
    Beccah W. says:

    I find the cheapness rather endearing! Especially when I purchase books from the grocery store shelves.

  8. 8
    shenzibanzai says:

    Egad, If that was the cost of a paperback, I’d probably have to mortgage my house to pay for university textbooks.

  9. 9
    Jennifer Lohmann says:

    Oof. The prices are scary. However, I like most of the Australian covers better than the US covers. Not enough to make up for the difference in price. . .

    The check system on the back would make recommending new authors to library patrons on the fly MUCH easier!

  10. 10
    Jennifer says:

    oi! prices! however, yea for variation in cover design!

    Re: the Daniels books—-Well, Kate likes to drink and Curran likes to grill, so maybe that is super sexy down under, eh?

  11. 11

    Yeah, prices are big!
    I just bought a paperback for twenty dollars. With discount.
    Free shipping though! So YAY

    and I had never really thought of it but the few Aussie books I have a pretty big, like, large-hardback size even though they are paperbacks.

  12. 12

    Yeah, prices are big!
    I just bought a paperback for twenty dollars. With discount.
    Free shipping though! So YAY

    and I had never really thought of it but the few Aussie books I have a pretty big, like, large-hardback size even though they are paperbacks.

  13. 13
    Sandy says:

    I live in Canada and our prices are slightly higher than US. The retailers once explained it by saying the US to Canadian $$ difference but with the Canadian dollar now higher…it has made no difference.  The books are still retailing for a higher price…and there are 2 distinct prices on the back of each book…

    But in Canada and Australia, there is a Canadian/Australian content/publishing/broadcasting law.

    For example:  Radio and Television programming MUST contain a certain percentage of Canadian content..meaning the programs and songs/singers must be Canadian made, contain Canadian content, Canadian citizens etc.

    As for the books, the Canadian and Australian laws try to keep an eye on the amount of US and international imports as it pertains to publishing, therefore allowing for Canadian or Australian published books some exposure….but most of our books are from US or international authors…..therefore, the price of the book is higher due to import fees and taxes……as well as….a special fee applied to NON-Canadian or NON-Australian published books…the same is applied in Australia….In fact Australia has stricter laws on the import of non-Australian books and novels etc. I have a few friends who live in Australia and some of our more popular books take months to reach Australia.  The ebook industry has helped a little in that department.

    The problem is called Americanization and it affects Canada as well as the rest of the world.  And this is significant when the countries involved are no longer considered individual but as part of the collective…in essence….we are all being assimilated…and resistance….is becoming…futile….(to quote the Borg).

  14. 14
    Anne V says:

    The prices are appalling.  The covers are much nicer and the checkmarks are superhandy, but eep, the prices! 

  15. 15
    Shiny says:

    In Israel the prices are similar. Regular English paperbacks are generally around the equivalent of $15.5, while the larger size are around $26, which is way more than I’m willing to spend. Every time I’m in the States I hit a used bookstore and stock up…

  16. 16

    Those prices are horrifying. I do think the covers are much nicer than USA covers. I especially love the Anita Blake covers. If I’m paying $20 or $30 for a book, though, it had better come with something more than a snazzy cover—like, say, a bottle of wine, a box of truffles, and a cone of silence.

  17. 17
    Kerry Dustin says:

    We call those “hardback-lite” books trade paperbacks if you were wondering. More and more books are coming out down here in that size instead of a “proper” hardcover.

    I’m in New Zealand rather than Australia and the prices are even higher here. Some of that is exchange rate, but I think they still work out higher. You’re unlikely to see any kind of paperback for less than $20 here.

    This is why I buy ebooks not paper books anymore. If I really want a paper copy, I buy from The Book Depository, who charge me a reasonable price and have free shipping. I feel bad about not supporting local business, such as the wonderful specialty romance/sf/fantasy import shop that closed earlier this year, but I can’t afford the local prices. They had to add shipping and duty and customs to the basic price to cover their costs and they couldn’t compete when I could buy the book at the base US price as an ebook. (Okay, there’s that VERY annoying geographical restrictions thing, but I either find a way around it or buy something else.)

    It’s interesting to me, that the more I buy ebooks in US currency, the more my opinion of prices has shifted to match the US mindset, rather than the NZ one. At first, I would consider the NZ price and think, oh US$9.99 is still so much cheaper than it would cost me in paper here, and so I’d buy it. Now I look at the higher ebook prices and think, oh, that’s too much, I’m not paying that, and I leave it and go find something I feel is more reasonable.

  18. 18
    Andrea says:

    I know about the book prices in New Zealand because my sister lives there. They are really similar to the prices in Oz (she had a paperback for NZ$ 27!). So naturally I was appalled (she’s not a reader, so it doesn’t really matter to her). Then I thought, okay, can’t compare prices directly, you have to take into account what people earn and how high or low living costs are. Unfortunately, even when taking those into account, the book prices are still prohibitive there. I would be one unhappy camper if I lived there!!

    Prices here in Germany are fortunately more or less the equivalent in € of the US prices because for some reason US mmps are exempt from the fixed book prices (found that in the dict so I don’t know if it is the correct term, it means that prices are set and sellers can’t change them except in special circumstances like remaindered books) which makes me happy because that means that in general US books are cheaper than the translations.
    Another nice thing here is that there is a reduced sales tax rate on books – don’t know why but love it! :-)

  19. 19
    Daisy says:

    The prices are high, but I was even more impressed by the size and chiselling on the man-titty on the cover beneath the Mary Balogh books.

  20. 20
    Ren says:

    Big no on the checks.

    a) Is any of the “men’s fiction” marked with a key that looks like something you’d find on reading material for second graders, or is it just grown women who need simplified visual cues to direct their decisions?

    b) Decent cover art and cover copy should reflect tone and content of the book. Publishers shouldn’t be encouraged any farther down the path of lazy, generic packaging than they’ve already proven they’re happy to go.

  21. 21
    SB Sarah says:

    How sad is this: I know exactly what book that is. Maya Banks’ Sweet Possession.

    <img alt=“Sweet Possession” src=“”&gt;


  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    Ren, you make a very good point. On one hand, it was kind of interesting to see a coded key to guide one around the very, very large paranormal romance section. But you’re right in that a similar code key wouldn’t be so easily provided if the section were targeted towards men. Thinking about what would be on the “men’s fiction” list of attributes has been VERY fun, though.

  23. 23
    Tam says:

    New Zealand is even worse for book prices, and when I lived there, I had to pay to get books at the local library.  Not all books – classics or children’s literature were free, I remember, but I’d be paying $2.50 for a new-release romance, so when I was a broke high school student, I used to ‘shoplift’ them from the library and smuggle them back in two weeks later.  Never mind BUYING new books, I couldn’t even afford to borrow them from the library…

    I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually a big factor in where I choose to live nowadays – can I afford my appalling book habit here?  (Answer: US and UK, yes.  NZ, no.)

  24. 24
    Sarah {CEFS} says:

    I totally get that, actually. Though whenever I lend out one of my cheap p-backs, it comes back worse for wear, the others can handle handle quite a few more reads. Though, maybe I just have friends who are book destroyers. ;)

  25. 25
    RosieH says:

    We have a wonderful public library here is Brisbane (Australia) with romance well covered. I am also grateful for my e-reader and being able to buy on line from overseas suppliers. I wish I could buy locally but the prices are prohibitive.

  26. 26
    Kerry Dustin says:

    Tam, where were you that you had a pay at the library?

    We actually have a very good library system here in Auckland and only pay for audio-visual items, but as I hardly read in paper any more, it doesn’t help me much.

    That said, I have an 8 year old son who is turning out to be as avid a reader as his mother, but he reads chapter books that he can finish in less than an hour. There’s no way we could possibly afford his book habit (even children’s books cost around $15 each). I am ever, ever, ever so grateful for the library.

  27. 27

    Australia has wonderful libraries, both public (funded by local councils) and school ones (get your kids to borrow books out for you) and big ones that are reference-based and non-lending, like the the State Library of Victoria. (Where I’m from)

    As for buying, more and more people are bypassing the bookstores entirely and buying on line. I could buy three Anne Gracie novels online for the price of one here. She’s a local author, but published first in the USA.

  28. 28
    Malin says:

    By the looks of it, a lot of the Australian covers are the same as in the UK. Frequently I prefer the UK covers, but on a lot of paranormal, they’re not really great in either the US or the UK. The books are also WAY cheaper in the UK, at least in my experience, from when I lived there. Now of course, I buy most of my books online, and pick the currency that makes the book cheapest. Very convenient.

  29. 29
    Katie Topping says:

    Yes, prices here in Oz are ridiculous.  Book Depository was a godsend, until it was bought by Amazon and the time to ship increased exponentially.  I do most of my reading now via ebook, but even they are more expensive if you have to buy from an Aussie retailer due to the publishing rights issue.  I think I’ve paid $22 in the past for a recently published ebook.  Bookshops are closing daily here, and with prices as they are, its not really suprising.  Even ‘discount’ books at Target or Kmart are $20.

  30. 30
    kate schneider says:

    This is why I bought an ereader. I got sick of paying so much for books. Now I can get books for a quarter of the price I’d pay in the stores. I also get books from the book depository but it started taking longer for them to arrive in the last year (usually 2 to 3 weeks) so mainly I stick to ebooks.

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