The study found that reducing paper costs by 11% would only reduce the cost of educational books by 2.53% and trade books by 2.47%.
It also found readers often buy books in high-rent shopping centres‚ which require knowledgeable staff and large stores.
“Rent (41%) and salaries (35%) make up the bulk of booksellers’ overheads.”
The largest booksellers in the country are Exclusive Books‚ with a 39 to 43% market share of trade books‚ Van Schaik Bookstores‚ which has about half of the academic book market‚ and Afribooks‚ which has cornered learning and teaching support materials.
The study said removing VAT from books needs more research.
“If the gains from increased sales of books are to outweigh the increased administrative burden and loss of tax revenues‚ sales would need to increase significantly.”
The study also found there are widespread allegations of corruption in the industry. The Publishers’ Association of South Africa (Pasa) said in August it is cooperating with an investigation by the Competition Commission into possible cartel behaviour by the local publishing industry.
The commission said it is investigating Pasa and its 91 members for allegedly fixing book prices and trade conditions.
The commission added that an alleged price-fixing arrangement “appears to be historic in the industry‚ dating back as early as [the] 1980s”.
Pasa members include Penguin Random House‚ Jonathan Ball Publishers‚ Juta‚ LAPA Publishers‚ Macmillan South Africa‚ Pan Macmillan‚ NB Publishers and Tafelberg.