Australian book prices

August 28, 2009

For some years now it has been cheaper for Australians to buy specialist books from Amazon and other online stores based in the US, than to purchase them from Australian booksellers (bricks and mortar or online). Even adding in the shipping costs from the US to Australia (there’s no free shipping to Australia from Amazon — the free shipping option is only available to US addresses), it’s STILL cheaper to buy books from Amazon.

Much as many of us would like to support local businesses and employment, the cost differential is a big factor in deciding whether to buy locally or buy from overseas. Even adding in the shipping charges, it’s often still cheaper to buy direct from overseas. Go figure…

Anyhow, this preamble is to let my fellow Australians know that there is now a local alternative to Amazon that will not only credit you with any price differential between their prices and Amazon prices (+ shipping), but add 10% more to sweeten the deal if the total purchase is more than AU$50 and delivery is to an Australian address. The online retailer is http://www.fishpond.com.au. Oh, and they take PayPal too — Amazon doesn’t.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost differentials on a set of five books I ordered recently — click the image to see it full size.

Book prices: Comparison

Book prices: Comparison

The individual prices of the books are MUCH higher in Australia, even accounting for the exchange rate. And the two main Australian booksellers — Angus and Robertson (A&R) and Dymocks — didn’t even stock some of the books in my list (highlighted in red) and still their AU$ averages for the books they *did* have were some $10 to almost $20 higher than Amazon’s AU$ equivalent, even allowing for the cheaper shipping rates from A&R and Dymocks.

Fishpond has no shipping charges on orders over AU$50 (an easy target to reach for books!), accepts PayPal as a payment option, and has a ‘Better than Amazon’ guarantee that credits you the difference PLUS 10% on your next purchase. Gotta be happy with that! I get the books I want, with the order filled by an Australian company employing Australians, at a price that now beats Amazon.


Fishpond have very clear order tracking facilities on their website. I ordered on a Saturday evening, got an immediate (automated?) reply listing the ordered items and expected delivery times. I received an email first thing on the Monday morning telling me that one of my five items had been shipped, with an expected arrival date later in the week.

Update: My first book arrived within the time frame they said — they said between Friday and the following Wednesday and it arrived on the Monday, right in the middle of the expected date range. I’ve since received notice that my other books are on their way and should be with me later this week or early next. Update: And they were!

One small issue…

Their Better than Amazon guarantee? Well, I didn’t quite get the credit I had expected, so I emailed them. I’ve had quite a long email conversation going with them (this is good — it means they monitor and respond to their emails), and the upshot is this: They calculate the Amazon shipping costs based on a single book in a single order (i.e. almost AU$12 PER BOOK instead of AU$6 per book plus another AU$6 for the order). This is NOT clear on their website which states (as at August 18, 2009):

If you order a book where the total cost (including shipping fee) is more expensive on Fishpond.com.au than Amazon, we will credit your Fishpond account with the difference plus 10%. The guarantee is valid only for books that are destined for Australian addresses where the cost of that single book (including shipping fee) is more expensive on Fishpond.com.au than Amazon.

After quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with cost breakdowns, they  confirmed that they calculate the Amazon shipping based on a single book per order rate, NOT on a single order plus the number of books in the order. This means that I was credited with about $20 less than I expected.

Now, I have no problem with them setting the calculation rules — it’s their business, after all. But I have suggested they make the shipping calculation MUCH clearer on their website. And, if you know me at all from the posts on this blog, you’ll know that I even suggested the text they use! ;-)

The guarantee is valid only for books that are destined for Australian addresses where the cost of that single book (including the single order shipping fee plus the book shipping fee per book) is more expensive on Fishpond.com.au than Amazon.

I wonder if they’ll make that change? It’ll save them answering emails from pedants like me who DO check the details and ask questions. I’ll check back in a few weeks…

[Links last checked August 2009]


  1. Ahhh, excellent post, I had the exact same question for Fish Pond as I was about to make another Amazon megaorder.

    How’s this for logic:

    On Amazon, 5 Books in a single shipment: $AU114
    On Amazon, same 5 Books in individual shipment: $AU140
    On FishPond, same 5 Books in single shipment: $AU140

    Based on the FishPond price matching calculations, I get zero credit, yet its $26 cheaper to buy on Amazon due to the single order. Is there any reason I should buy from FishPond (as I would prefer to support Aussie booksellers… if they were the same price)

  2. […] May 16, 2010 I’ve spoken about Adobe’s inexplicable pricing model and Australian book prices before, but today it’s the turn of a more generalist consumer product — a magazine from […]

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