Despite its good fortunes in other markets, Hachette seems to be enjoying less prosperity in Kiwi country, and appears ready to leave the land of flightless birds to the Penguin, withdrawing from the New Zealand market.
As of the time of writing, no official announcement has appeared on the Hachette Australia or Hachette New Zealand websites, but reports in The Bookseller, citing Richard Kitson, commercial director at Hachette UK, blame the growth of e-books and the influence of online retailers not liable for Kiwi sales tax for Hachette’s difficulties there.
Radio New Zealand confirmed that Hachette will maintain a NZ front office for selling and marketing international and local backlist titles, but all other functions will be relocated to Australia.
The developments in the remote but highly developed Antipodean market of just over 4.4 million could have lessons for other jurisdictions.
New Zealand has left off enforcing territorial copyright, and its market is really too small and open to be easily defensible. Contradicting enlightened governments of yesteryear which removed sales tax on books entirely in 1933 after the UK model, current NZ legislation makes local retailers liable for a 15 percent sales tax.
That said, in principle a publisher should be focusing on finding and developing local talent, if you accept that a publisher is a talent house and not a distribution engine. Hachette’s exposure to concerns that ought to be more a matter for booksellers suggests to me that their business model has just not moved on far enough.
Kiwi authors, meanwhile, would obviously do better to rely on self-publishing or small local houses in future, and reach out online where remoteness doesn’t matter.