Last Saturday, I ventured into town to attend the Melbourne Writers Festival forum on proposed reforms to remove Parallel Importation restrictions on books.
I had gone there to listen to the debate, and to collect signatures on behalf of Saving Aussie Books for a petition to government requesting that PIRs be retained.
So you can imagine my surprise when out of the mouth of Allan Fels, advocate of ‘Free Trade’ and one of the instigators of the proposed reforms came these words, ‘I would be prepared to pay more for a good Australian book.’
Isn’t this what we are all arguing? That the price of a book is NOT the only issue in this debate…that Australian books are important…and that our cultural history should be maintained through our literature? And that’s not withstanding any discussion about the employment and artistic opportunities that go with having such a thriving industry.
RIGHT NOW, we are producing ‘good Australian books’, so why doesn’t Fels want to pay the price being asked for books for other people’s great grandchildren? Why is he so intent on opening our market to UK and USA; countries that won’t return the favour? Why does he want to subject our unique and successful industry to what publisher Sandy Grant refers to as ‘Cultural Imperial Bullies’?
What preceded Fel’s admission was a question from author, Morris Gleitzman, if you had your great grandchild on your knee and were reading to him, would your choice of story be based on the fact that it was a good Australian story or would it be a book chosen because it was a few cents cheaper?
To me, Fel’s response to this question just illustrates the fact that you can’t reduce artistry, culture, educational value and reader enjoyment to dollar terms.
Reading is an emotional experience, and perhaps why that’s why so many of us are outraged that economists are trying to put a fiscal value on something that is esoteric and individual.
When it comes to a member of Fel’s own family, he is prepared to pay more for a good book. So why does he expect the rest of us to feel any different?
If you haven’t already signed the Saving Aussie Books petition which will be presented to Canberra, you can do so now at http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com