People DO Make a Difference!

DEE POSTING FIRST BUNDLE OF PETITIONS TO SAB REPRESENTATIVE IN CANBERRA

Me posting the first bundle of petitions to our Saving Aussie Books representative in Canberra. Later, all petitions were collated and handed directly to the politicians by Sheryl Gwyther from Saving Aussie Books

Yesterday, it was announced that Federal Cabinet had rejected the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to remove Parallel Import Restrictions on books.

As an author with many author friends, I celebrated this decision. These days, it’s hard enough for an Australian author with few or no ‘published credits’ to have their work picked up. If Parallel Import Restrictions had been removed; allowing the importation of cheap overseas versions of our work, this would have reduced opportunities even further.

Retaining Parallel Imports on books also means that thousands of people in the printing and publishing industries will keep their jobs and that the Victorian town of Maryborough will be saved from complete decimation.

But as a mother and a children’s writer, the most important outcome for me is that our culture and history as expressed through our literature will be protected. My books that are sold in Australia will have mums and taps not ‘moms’ and ‘faucets’.

As a parent of creative children, it is also important to me that there will still be opportunities available for them in this industry if that’s the career path they choose.

Having been deeply involved in the ‘battle’ from start to finish, I feel a sense of relief that this matter has now been resolved and I can continue to go on with my own writing. (Perhaps even start to blog regularly again.)

But I know that none of us can be complacent. We live in a world of changing views and technologies and all of us in the publishing industry will need to work with these new developments, keep fighting the battles that need to be fought, and protect not only our own interests but those of our readers.

One of the most inspiring things about this whole process has been how authors, publishers, agents, printers, booksellers and politicians have worked side by side.

Having been involved in the establishment and running of the Saving Aussie Books blog http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com, it has also been my pleasure to come into contact with wonderful kids, parents, grandparents – readers of all generations; from all walks of life who have been united by their love for Australian books.

Who knows what really went on – or what motivated the final decision? What I do know is that so many ‘ordinary’ Australians fought hard for what they believed in. People wrote letters, emailed, phoned and faxed their local politicians – people who admitted that this was something that would not ordinarily be bothered doing.

Supporters from all over Australia got petitions signed and mailed them to Saving Aussie Books and one of our members (Sheryl Gwyther) flew to Canberra at her own expense to present them to the politicians.

Whether all this made a difference, who knows? But I know that it made a difference to me. It made me realise that people in Australia aren’t apathetic – that they will fight for what they believe in – they just have to know how to go about it.

Thanks to each and every person who signed a petition, collected signatures, made a phone call, sent a letter, did whatever they could – cared enough about Australian books to put up a fight.

Dee

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REMOVING PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS ON BOOKS DOESN’T ADD UP

Regardless of the fact that the entire Productivity Commission’s assertions are based on out-of-date and somewhat dubious data, you don’t have to be a math’s whizz to work out that removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books is a very bad idea.

The equation is simple

            8 negative impacts

         1 ‘possible’ positive impact

=          more numbers in the negative impacts column.

Here’s how the figures are put together.

NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF REMOVING PIRS ON BOOKS

1.         Cultural effects: – loss of representation of Australian Culture in books, and less exposure to other cultures because reduced earnings will prevent publishers from bringing in some overseas books.

2.         Industry job losses: – an estimated 1400 to 1600 jobs will be lost in the printing and publishing industries. And this doesn’t include independent booksellers, who will also suffer if PIRs are removed.

3.         Less opportunity for emerging writers to be published: – Since PIRs were removed in New Zealand, new authors are finding it increasingly difficult to get published over there.

4.         Less income for Australian authors: – Many Australian authors will have fewer books published (or none at all), and any discounts off the recommended retail price will mean less income per book.

5.         Fewer career opportunities for future generations of authors and publishers.

6.         Less choice for consumers

7.         Fewer exports

8.         A massive carbon footprint caused by books being flown in from overseas rather than produced locally.

POSITIVE IMPACTS OF REMOVING PIRs

1.         There is ‘potential’ benefit for consumers with the ‘possibility’ of cheaper books, but evidence shows that most book choices are not made on price, and there is NO guarantee that the Coalition for Cheaper Books (AKA Coles, Woolworths etc) will pass on any price drops. Ask yourself, since the dairy industry was deregulated, has the price of milk got cheaper? Do petrol prices drop when the cost of oil goes down?

Clearly the ‘benefit’ of removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books DOES NOT stack up against the harm it will do.

Tell our politicians that removing Parallel Imports on books is not good for our industry or our country!

Sign the online petition at http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com TODAY!

Dee White

PARALLEL IMPORTS DEBATE – What’s the Difference between an Author and an Economist?

AN AUTHOR (that’s me) stands on the platform of a country station at 6.00am, temperature around 2 degrees, waiting for the train that will take her to Melbourne for the Productivity Roundtable Discussion.

AN ECONOMIST flies first class from Canberra, perhaps stays in a first class motel for the night, and arrives refreshed and breakfasted at the Productivity Roundtable Discussion.

AN  AUTHOR operates within a world of competition. She competes with other authors not only to get published, but to earn a place in bookshops and in readers’ homes. Yet she has great friendships within her author community. She takes her book on blog tours visiting competitor blogs where other authors help promote her work, and she in turn helps to promote their blog….and later on, hosts them and their new books on her blog.

AN  ECONOMIST doesn’t get that authors care about the ‘whole’ world they live in. They don’t understand why established authors like Tim Winton and Morris Gleitzman would care if PIRs were removed.  They don’t get that these are caring human beings who haven’t forgotten how hard it is for authors starting out, who care about their country and making sure that our culture is reflected in our literature. They don’t get why large publishers like Penguin would stand up for their smaller counterparts…..their desire to protect the publishing industry in its entirety.

AN AUTHOR cares about the fact that removing parallel import restrictions will have a devastating impact on the environment with a massive carbon footprint being caused by books being ‘flown’ in from overseas. The author cares about the loss of printing and publishing jobs, and the reduced opportunities for her colleagues to have their work published in this country. The author cares that book readers will have less choice and will be denied the opportunity to read some fabulous overseas books that won’t be brought into Australia because the publishers won’t be able to afford to. The author cares that there will be less income for those in her profession and that her children will have fewer career opportunities in the industry.

AN ECONOMIST doesn’t care as long as ‘discretionary spending’ is directed away from the thriving book industry to make the economy ‘more balanced’.

Vote for the author who DOES care, and her industry, by signing the online petition at http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com

Dee White

(the author)

PARALLEL IMPORTS DEBATE – ALLAN FELS SUPPORTS AUSSIE BOOKS

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

PARALLEL IMPORTS DEBATE – NOTHING FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM…..

….And in fact, the Parallel Import Restrictions forum that took place at ACMI 2 in Fed Square on Saturday night was taken very seriously by all who attended.

And why wouldn’t it be? The proposal to remove Parallel Import Restrictions on books impacts on so many things…our livelihoods, our cultural history, our environment.

The Melbourne Writers Festival’s Response to the Productivity Commission Report featured the panel of Gabrielle Coyne (MD, Penguin), Sandy Grant (Publisher, Hardie Grant), David Vodicka (Rubber Records), Allan Fels and Peter Donoughue.

The panel was chaired by author and academic, Mark Davis, but unfortunately, no authors were really given the chance to stand up and have their say. Also absent from the panel was any representation from the Productivity Commission; which seemed strange seeing as it was their report that was being responded to.

More than 100 people listened to, and participated in the debate which went half an hour overtime and could have gone a lot longer. I was there as a member of Saving Aussie Books; getting petitions signed to submit to our politicians….and of course to listen, and gain a greater understanding of the issues.

Allan Fels, advocate of ‘Free Trade’ had the first chance to speak and referred back to 1912 when the parallel import laws first came in. Nobody was really quite sure why he did this seeing as the 1991 amendments seemed to have far more relevance to the current industry.

Allan clearly stated his position, that he believed that the PC report demonstrated that the average price of books in Australia is substantially higher than our overseas competitors.

His statement left me wondering if he’d read the same document…or even lived in the same country as me. And Gabrielle Coyne was quick to point out that Fel’s conclusion was simply not true; citing as an example, the fact that Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ can be purchased in Australia for $14, and that there is statistical evidence to prove that Aussie books are competitively priced.

Prices vary according to exchange rates, freight and so many other factors and even the Productivity Commission CANNOT guarantee price reductions.  As Gabrielle mentioned, ‘The PC report pretty much says that books will be cheaper some of the time (maybe)’.

Sandy Grant talked about the fact that local publishers would be disadvantaged by a deregulated market because there is no way that the US or the UK markets will remove Parallel Import Restrictions on books.  As Sandy said, ‘This creates unfair and uneven competition’. He described it as, ‘One more hit that will destroy independent publishers’.

While Sandy conceded that the digital age necessitates the need for industry reforms, he said that removing PIRs on books is ‘Not the reform that the industry should focus on this time around’.

Allan Fels agreed that removing PIRs, ‘Would have some impact on the publishing industry, but not too large.’

This statement left many of us in the audience shaking our heads, wondering how you quantify not too large, and why it is worth risking jobs, livelihoods and cultural history when the impacts of removing PIRs have not even been properly measured?

Allan Fels also claimed that the proposed reforms would lead to significant improvements in distribution; once again a sweeping statement without any terms of reference and clearly no factual basis seeing as distribution warehouses were wiped out in New Zealand when PIRs were removed.

Sandy Grant pointed out that most New Zealand books are now purchased offshore, with book buyers based in Australia. Would we want our book buyers based in the US, using their markets to dictate what is available here?

David Vodicka from Rubber Records was called upon to talk about how removing PIRs had affected the music industry. Despite claims in the PC report to the contrary, David was able to speak of ‘real’ experiences. He said that, ‘CDs have become cheaper because of the internet, not because of removing PIRs.’ David also stated, ‘There is no empirical evidence to show that PIR removal had any affect on prices’.

Furthermore, he said that the government subsidies designed to compensate artists (the same ones being offered to authors if PIRs are removed) ran out after three years.

He also advised that since the removal of PIRs in the music industry, ‘Small record labels have had difficulty getting access to markets’.

Unfortunately due to the lengthy rhetoric from Allan Fels and Peter Donoughue, question time was limited. Publisher, Henry Rosenbloom did have an opportunity however, to speak out about the fact that freight charges hadn’t been allowed for in any of the pricing done by the Productivity Commission.

Author, Morris Gleitzman said, ‘The place we give young people’s stories in our culture can’t be reduced to economic rationalism’.

Allan Fels response was, ‘There will always be a demand for good Australian books and the Parallel Imports story is irrelevant to that’.

But as Morris pointed out, ‘How can people feel a demand for an author they have never heard of?’

Finally, the question was asked, ‘Why are consumers more important than our culture and the people who create it?’

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition on Saturday night. This issue will be debated in Parliament on 17th September, so we need to ACT NOW!

What you can do: 

  1. Sign the petition at the site http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com
  2. Download a petition from http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com,  and get your friends to sign
  3. Write to your politicians
  4. Meet your politicians in person and express your concerns

Be watching for tomorrow’s post,

Allan Fels Supports Aussie Books

PARALLEL IMPORTS DEBATE – GIVE AUTHORS CREDIT FOR INTELLIGENCE

Dee

I am a proud Australian author and admit that I have a totally vested interest in the PIR debate…..but doesn’t everyone?

The ‘free traders’ and big businesses behind the push to remove PIRs stand to make more money. All other parties to the publishing and printing process stand to make less.

Hundreds, if not thousands of jobs will be at risk, and printers and some smaller independent bookshops will face possible closure.

If PIRs are removed, my territorial copyright will become worthless, the opportunities for my unpublished writer friends will be few and far between….and my children will have reduced chances of finding employment in this industry. So, why wouldn’t I be worried?

Not only that, but the carbon footprint of bringing all these imports into the country will be huge, and the future of Australian culture as reflected in our literature will be heavily compromised with our readers being forced to consume an American or UK ‘brand’ of Australiana…and perhaps have no exposure to it all.

In US versions of our books, our storybook mums will become moms, our taps will become faucets, and even our native animals will not escape unscathed. Our children will be forced to read about opossums and who knows, our echidna may even become a ‘porcupine’?

As a parent and an Australian reader, this is NOT what I want for future generations.

On Saturday night, I was with a group from Saving Aussie Books who went to the Melbourne Writer’s Festival forum on PIRs at Federation Square – to listen, and to get petitions signed to submit to Canberra.

The panel consisted of Mark Davis (author, academic and chair), Gabrielle Coyne (MD, Penguin), Sandy Grant (publisher, Hardie Grant) David Vodicka (Rubber Records), Allan Fels and Peter Donoughue.

It was a lively debate with publishers clearly articulating, using fact-based evidence, how destructive removing PIRs will be for our industry…with no proven gain for the consumer.

Mr Fels on the other hand was full of vague and sweeping statements which he claimed categorically to be true, all the while shaking the Productivity Commission Report at the audience – almost begging them to believe the truth of its contents.

By Mr Fel’s own admission, ‘Authors are the ones who will be most affected by the changes’, yet he accused us of being, ‘Whipped up by our publishers into a frenzy’.

The only frenzy or panic I saw was Mr Fels attempting to scuttle away from the scrutiny of people wanting to know ‘which vested interests’ were really behind the Productivity Commission’s factually flawed 300 page tome.

In the hundred strong audience, I saw no evidence of authors foaming at the mouth or even closely approaching a frenzied state.

My Sydney-based publisher was not at the forum, and in fact they only knew it was on because I told them; informing them as a matter of courtesy, that I would be in a public place getting petitions signed.

When Mr Fels made his statement about ‘Authors being whipped up into a frenzy’, even my mild mannered husband was forced to exclaim, ‘Authors are smart, articulate people, doesn’t he give them any credit for intelligence?’

Unfortunately, clearly Mr Fels does not. Or is it that he is using this tactic to try and cause divisiveness between authors and their publishers; perhaps he is following a divide and conquer philosophy?

Perhaps, he just doesn’t get our industry at all…I mean let’s face it, in what other industry would you have competitors sitting side by side at public gatherings, genuinely congratulating each other on their successes?

In Mr Fel’s world of high finance, perhaps it’s balance sheets at five paces, slay the competition, put them out of business…at all costs.

I am proud to be part of an industry where authors who are my true competitors are my greatest friends; where publishers, printers, writers, illustrators and literary agents are working together for a very worthy cause…. to KEEP Parallel Import Restrictions on Books.

Yes, authors are riled and outspoken on this issue. Yes, we are appalled at the prospects for our industry and the future of what the Productivity Commission blithely dismisses as ‘cultural externalities’.

But we are doing this because we are thinking people with a social conscience, who care not just about what happens to our profession, but for the welfare of those around us.

If you haven’t already signed the Saving Aussie Books petition which will be presented to Canberra, you can do so now. Go to http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com

PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – Time for Action!

URGENT CALL FOR VICTORIANS!

WE NEED TO FIGHT THE PROPOSED MOVE TO ABOLISH PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS

WE NEED TO FIGHT NOW!

On Saturday 22nd August, the Melbourne Writers Festival is running a FREE session responding to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to remove parallel import restrictions (PIRs) on books.

To take place at ACMI 2 at Federation Square, the event will feature Mark Davis (author, academic), Gabrielle Coyne (MD Penguin), Sandy Grant (Publisher, Hardie Grant), David Vodicka (Rubber Records), Don Grover (CEO Dymocks) and a representative from the Productivity Commission.

Removing PIRs on books will result in MANY jobs lost in the industry, less choice for readers, loss of Australian cultural representation in literature and fewer opportunities for new Australian authors to be published – all with NO GUARANTEE that books will become cheaper.

Parliament will be debating this issue on 17th September so we need to all parents, educators, readers and members of the publishing industry to ACT NOW!

WHAT YOU CAN DO! 

  • Attend the FREE session at Fed Square
  • Spare some time on the night to get petitions signed
  • Meet with your local federal politician and express your views on this issue

If you are able to help with getting petitions signed at Fed Square, please email me at deescriber@optusnet.com.au with your name and contact details and I’ll get back to you.

I’m a member of the group, Saving Aussie Books. You can find out more about PIRs or download petition forms from http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com  There are also sample letters to politicians and contact details for them available from that site.

This is an important issue for all of us. Please get involved and help protect the future of the Aussie book industry.

 

Dee