Cost of books in Australia versus the UK and USA

Books in Australia have always been quite expensive, I noticed that almost as soon as we arrived. I remember there was one particular book I wanted to buy a couple of years after I got here, it was available for £7.00 on Amazon in the UK but the cheapest I could find it here was $40.

Okay, probably not the most popular book down under or anywhere…

renegadeThings are changing though, book buying online is a global business and often companies offer free worldwide shipping. But, generally speaking, if you want to walk into a bookstore here in Australia and buy one of the latest bestsellers, expect to pay much more than you would in either the UK or the USA.

Comparing book prices

To show you the difference, I went book shopping. Of course, we don’t have Amazon here in Australia, undoubtedly the pioneers when it comes to buying discounted books online.

So whilst I have used Amazon UK and Amazon USA for my prices from those countries, I decided to use a company called Booktopia for my Australian cost comparisons.

I chose them for two reasons, 1) they are based in Australia and 2) they came top when I searched for “buy books online Australia“.

They do charge $6.50 flat fee delivery Australia wide irrespective of size of your order, whereas Amazon offer free delivery provided you spend over a certain amount.

For this exercise, I’ve ignored postage.

Going shopping

I decided to buy five books from each of these sellers. I chose three paperbacks from the bestsellers list in fiction, one hardback from non-fiction and one top-selling hardback children’s novel.

The following shopping cart images are a little too small to read, but you can click on each picture to enlarge it, just click the back button on your browser to return here.

Here are the results:

Cost of books via Amazon USA

US Books Online
Cost of books via Amazon UK

UK Books OnlineCost of books from Booktopia Australia

Australian Books Online

There you are, three different shopping carts containing the exact five same books yet we have very different checkout prices.

  • Total cost in the USA is $65.04 USD which is equal to $69.94 AUD
  • Total cost in the UK is £49.05 which is equal to $89.18 AUD
  • Total cost in Australia is $153.85 AUD
All at today’s exchange rates.

Conclusion

Books in Australia are hugely expensive costing more than twice as much as they do in the USA and over 70% more than they do in the UK.

So if you want to grab a bargain, you really do want to be shopping online and buying from a company that offers worldwide free shipping. There are plenty around, you just need to search and compare. The high cost of books here in Australia may also explain why we have…

The largest second-hand book sale in the world

Yes, really, here in Brisbane.

Last week over a four-day period the Lifeline Bookfest June 2014 was held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre in South Brisbane. Over 4 kilometres of tables and 2 million books went up for grabs at bargain prices, all for charity.

They also held one in the same place in January of this year…

BookfestImage courtesy of ABC News

As well as Brisbane, these events run throughout the year from various locations including the Gold Coast, Rockhampton, Mackay, Ipswich, Bundaberg and Caboolture, and that’s just in Queensland. There are other Lifeline Bookfests taking place around the country.

I didn’t go, I have more books than I can shake a stick at still waiting to be read. I also have plenty of books that I have finished with and they will be finding their way to Lifeline to help stock up for their next big sale.

I’ve also got 15 brand-new books I simply don’t need; nine bestselling paperback novels, three hardback non-fiction books and three hardback children’s books. The things I do to write a post.

If you have any books you would like to donate, please visit Uniting Care Community.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Hana Bilqisthi September 10, 2016, 1:40 pm | Link

    Hi Bob. Nice article! 😀 I am from Indonesia and recently I get into reading english book. I’ve been wondering why the online seller in Indonesia said that their english book cheaper because come from UK. So I google and found your blog 😀 thanks for the explanation 🙂

    • BobinOz September 11, 2016, 8:36 pm | Link

      Glad to have helped you find the answer Hana, and I hope you enjoy the books you get from the UK. Cheers, Bob

  • Cathy October 4, 2014, 1:06 pm | Link

    Hi Bob Just thought I’d mention the wonderful library service we have here in Sydney. $2 to reserve a book if there isn’t a copy available and you have 4 weeks to read it. I am from South Africa where these services were very poor. Cheers

    • BobinOz October 6, 2014, 2:43 pm | Link

      Yes, worth mentioning Cathy, libraries are another good source of books here in Australia. We have a mobile library that turns up in our suburb regularly, which is handy.

  • Chad July 18, 2014, 8:55 pm | Link

    Love these articles Bob, thanks!

    Do you think it would be prudent to purchase the books you want prior to moving to Australia? I am an avid reader with an already extensive library but i am not quite sure how shipping costs of moving would compare to higher AU prices?

    Another thought.. Does anyone know if my Apple iTunes / Amazon Kindle accounts would be different in the AU? Would I lose my purchases? My ebook library is almost as extensive 😀

    Cheers

    • BobinOz July 20, 2014, 9:16 pm | Link

      Hi Chad

      If you are moving your stuff over in a container, adding books to the pile isn’t going to increase your shipping costs. On that basis, it might be a good idea to stock up with a selection of books you want, but I wouldn’t go overboard, there are some really good online bookstores that are UK based and offer free postage, see Helena’s comment above.

      Don’t know what iTunes might do, whoever does? Has anyone read their 700 page terms and conditions? Seriously though, I’m sure you should be entitled to keep the purchases you’ve already made, but you may have to do some serious research in order to make it happen, or possibly even pop into a local Apple Store when you get here to ask them how to do it.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Liv June 23, 2014, 10:30 pm | Link

    Hi Bob, Any ideas about why books cost so much more in Australia? It’s always puzzled me…

    • BobinOz June 24, 2014, 6:21 pm | Link

      I suspect it is because books that are available worldwide are not published here in Australia and so they have to be transported here. Because of our low population, they are probably exported in small numbers as well, so there is a premium for that.

      There might be many things “Made in China” but as yet I don’t think they are into publishing English books, one day when they are we might get cheap books as well.

      But I’m only guessing.

  • Helena June 23, 2014, 10:12 am | Link

    I buy all my books from book depository in the UK, way cheaper than here, no postage and the books arrive within the week – love them!

    • BobinOz June 24, 2014, 12:26 am | Link

      Yes, my wife has been getting books from there as well, I agree, it’s a very good service and the prices are pretty good.

  • Christine June 20, 2014, 3:05 am | Link

    Wonderful news, that’s a great relief.
    Chris

  • Christine June 18, 2014, 6:08 pm | Link

    Hi Bob,
    I am an avid reader and purchase most of my books for my kindle through Amazon and they are delivered wirelessly. Do you happen to know if I will still be able to do this using an Australian payment card.
    Just love your website!!
    Christine

    • Kamma June 19, 2014, 3:07 am | Link

      Hi Christine,
      I doubt you’d have any problem. My Danish card works with no problem in both the English and American Amazon store, so it’d surprise me greatly if they’d reject your card, which is probably a visa or a mastercard, just because it was handed to you over an Australian counter.

      • Christine June 19, 2014, 3:51 am | Link

        Thank you.

        • BobinOz June 19, 2014, 8:02 pm | Link

          Funnily enough as I was doing my research for this article and browsing through Amazon.com, every time I got to a book that was only available digitally a pop-up message at the top appeared saying “great news, you can now buy this product in Australia in Australian dollars” or something like that.

          The computer was clearly picking up that I was based in Australia.

          So I reckon you can 🙂

  • djmcbell June 18, 2014, 5:41 pm | Link

    Though I live in the UK I do try and get as many books online, normally through Amazon, second-hand. There can be some very very good bargains to be had – paperbacks which, in Waterstones, would normally cost about £8, for about £2 or £3. Though I do occasionally buy from Waterstones when there’s a new book I have to have, I do think I’d shop there a lot more often if they had some form of sale, like HMV have for DVDs, giving substantial discounts. As it is, the best Waterstones normally do is a buy-one-get-one-half-price, which would be fine if I could find another book I want in the offer.

    My dad in Australia complains about book prices too, and I think he does some online shopping. He does occasionally check out local book shops (I think he’s got a Barnes & Noble, or is it Borders? BTW, Borders in the UK shut down a few years ago) but I think that’s mostly for ideas, then goes online. I do know that, when I visited some years ago, I looked at a copy of an old book that had the UK price on (£7.99), and the stickered shop price was $23.

    Then there are e-readers, which are a whole different minefield. A lot of books are cheaper as e-books (as they should be), but a lot are more expensive. Go figure.

    • BobinOz June 19, 2014, 7:59 pm | Link

      I can’t really get into e-books, I spend all day working on the computer the last thing I want to do is read a book on a computer or even a Kindle device. I think second-hand book buying is the way to go, after all, as long as it’s got all its pages it’s as good as new really.

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