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Regardless of the fact that the entire Productivity Commission’s assertions are based on out-of-date and somewhat dubious data, you don’t have to be a math’s whizz to work out that removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books is a very bad idea.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

PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – PC CRIT 4 – AUTHORS AND THE RESEARCH DATA

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

RE: AUTHORS AND THE RESEARCH DATA

When it comes to describing the existing situation and possible outcomes for authors, the Productivity Commission has been forced to make a number of sweeping statements and generalisations that clearly indicate it does not have the research data to support its claims.

Australian authors earn an average of $11,000 per year yet the Productivity Commission would have us believe that up to 50% of these authors are represented by literary agents. (refer page 2.14 of the PC report – Westland 2006). These figures just don’t add up.

Further ‘creativity’ and vagueness is displayed on page 5.14 where the Commission asserts without providing any supporting evidence that:

Authors of Australian-specific content are likely to be somewhat insulated from any contractions in publishing as there would still be demand for such books.

“Likely to be somewhat insulated”?  What sort of an economic judgement is that?

And on page 5.15 the Commission quotes quite extensively from a submission by Peter Donohue that claims authors can just ‘buy back’ the remaindered copies to prevent overseas publishers from competing with the Australian royalty paying copies. It makes you wonder how on an income of $11,000 the ‘average’ Australian author is going to be able to do that.

In further unsubstantiated vagueness, the Commission asserts as part of its cultural discussion,

The Harry Potter books are considered by some to have been the most important in promoting children’s reading, both in Australia and overseas.

Forgetting the fact that no ‘numbers’ are provided to support this statement, it also fails to take into account people like Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman and many other Australian authors who were motivating our children to read before Harry Potter was even a gleam in JK Rowling’s eye.

In another sweeping statement, the Productivity Commission claims on page 6.5

Australian authorship alone does not necessarily give rise to substantive cultural value.

I wonder how such a thing can even be measured. We don’t have to write about Uluru, King’s Cross or Southern Cross Station for our books to be ‘Australian’. Just the fact that our stories are set in an Australian context, our nursing journals are set in Australian teaching hospitals using our procedures – surely this makes them of cultural and educational value to our readers.

And when it comes to authors, the Commission has been very selective in its use of ‘relevant’ examples.

The Commission asserts on page 6.6  that authors like Mem Fox haven’t had changes made to their overseas editions, and this may well be true. But when you are one of the authors on less than $11,000 a year trying to contribute to the support of a mortgage and family, you’re not in a good position to be bargaining over editorial changes.

And what the Commission also fails to point out in its use of Possum Magic as an example, is that this is a picture book that is ‘read’ to children, so that an adult is present to explain word meanings etc. Most Picture books aren’t ‘read’ by their intended readership – many are for preschool age children. So even though the books are aimed at these children, they have to be read to them – and this often involves a lot of explantory discussion.

In its cultural debate, the Commission goes on to discuss the relationship between cultural and market value – a move which in view of lack of research data  is completely open to personal interpretation.

Hard pressed for statistical evidence on this issue the Commission uses its creativity to compare (page 6.9) books with heritage buildings.

And when it comes to comparing cultural and market value, the Commission concludes that:

Beyond the intrinsic motivations of authors and publishers, the extent to which the creation and subsequent dissemination of books occurs depends in large measure on the price of books in the marketplace.

This statement totally goes against the evidence of booksellers (the people at the coal face) who aren’t members of the Coalition for Cheaper Books. They are the booksellers who really care about their customers and providing them with the range and quality of books they want. These are the booksellers who say that most book buying decisions are based on author, content and topic – and NOT price.

The proposal to remove Parallel Imports on books is a serious issue affecting the livelihood of many – and I’ll admit; particularly authors like me.

But surely, decisions should be based on well researched evidence, not the vague assumptions that arise from insufficient statistical data.

Dee White

Author

PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS – A Closer Look at the Productivity Commission’s Findings – and introducing a new column, “PC CRIT”

PC CRIT 1

This is the FIRST in a series of regular commentaries on the findings of the Productivity Commission’s Research Report into Restrictions on Parallel Importation of Books.

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for future column topics.

Dear Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett, Mr Bowen and to all supporters of the Arts and Culture in Australia.

The Productivity Commission has provided you with a document of around 220 pages on why parallel imports on books should be removed. I promise mine won’t be anywhere near as lengthy, but seeing as we live in a democratic society, it seems only fair that the publishing industry gets to have its say.

That’s why I’ve started my column, “PC Crit”, which will go through the Productivity Commission findings and present things from an alternative perspective.

Today’s topic: WHO GAINS FROM PIRs and ARE PIRs REALLY PUSHING UP THE COST OF BOOKS?

In its ‘Key Points’ on page XIV of its Productivity Commission Research Report, the PC claims:

  •  Most of the benefits of PIR protection accrue to publishers and authors, with demand for local printing also increased.

 

  • Most of the costs are met by consumers who fund these benefits in a non-transparent manner through higher book prices.

The flaws in these argument are a matter of straight mathematics, which would be self evident if ‘current’ , independent, objective research was conducted on the subject.

Some chain stores are demanding discounts of up to 70% from publishers. The author gets standard 10% royalty, 10% must also be taken into account for GST, and the publisher, printer and distributor get the rest.

This clearly demonstrates that a disproportionate amount of the book’s retail price goes to the likes of Dymocks, Coles and Big W – and the members of the Coalition for Cheaper Books (frequently quoted in the PC report) the parties behind the move to abolish PIRs.

Clearly, the largest proportion of the price on ‘supposedly overpriced books’ is NOT going to the author, the publisher or the printer.

So how can it be argued that most of ‘anything’ accrues to publishers and authors?

And even if you concede that authors and publishers have the most to gain from PIRs, how can PIRs be blamed for the alleged ‘higher books prices’ when those receiving the benefits of  them are making the MOST financial outlay to produce the book yet receiving the LEAST back from its sale?

And when was price the prime reason for people’s book purchasing decisions? Ask any independent bookseller and they’ll tell you that people don’t walk into their store asking for a $10 book – they ask for something on a particular topic, or by a particular author – or perhaps they just want to read about their own country from someone who knows it well – an Australian author.

Thanks for your time.

Dee White – Author

PARALLEL IMPORT RESTRICTIONS – CAMPAIGN TO CANBERRA

If you’re like me and concerned about how removing Parallel Import restrictions on books is a terrible idea both domestically and globally, you can write to Federal politicians who will be debating the matter in Canberra in the very near future.

Here’s what I wrote to our Prime Minister, Mr Rudd:

Dear Kevin,

RE: PROPOSAL TO REMOVE PARALLEL IMPORTATION RESTRICTIONS ON BOOKS

I wrote to you back in April to express my concern at the proposal to remove Parallel Importation Restrictions on books.

At that time, I outlined in detail what I believed the cultural impact would be as well as the economic outcomes for all parties involved in the publishing industry.

Removing parallel import restrictions is supposed to benefit the reading public, yet we will be imposing overseas (in particular American) culture in an Australian context, and this will surely diminish representation of our own culture and language in our books. Some changes our readers might be subjected to include the use of:

  • faucet instead of tap
  • diaper instead of nappy
  • bro instead of brother
  • Mom instead of Mum
  • ketchup instead of tomato sauce
  • drugstore instead of chemist
  • jello instead of jelly
  • jelly instead of jam
  • gasoline instead of petrol
  • spyglass instead of telescope

In a country that already laments the deterioration of grammar in our schools, we may be subjected to y’all instead of all of you/everyone, off of instead of off, and other gems like gotten and putten and  winningest (having the most wins).

The entire basis for considering removing PIRs is predicated on the fact that it will put downward pressure on the price of books however, publishers and printers at the Melbourne Roundtable discussions asserted that the reverse was more likely to occur. Printers would have to recoup the same fixed costs, even though their volume of work had decreased, and publishers would need to increase costs to cover the increased risk on books that they might not ‘break even’ on.

And in fact, Dymocks, the bookseller pushing for these reforms, charges more than many other booksellers and earns at least five times as much as the author on any book sold.

Furthermore, the price of books is not one of the major factors affecting consumer’s book buying decisions. I know I buy books because of the author, subject matter, themes, or because they look interesting.

I have only ever bought two books on-line, and this was simply because they weren’t available here and I needed them for research. If the Australian market is flooded with cheap imports because they are more profitable, this will restrict the choice for consumers and many may be forced to buy more of their books online.

In fact, Dymocks, who advocates removing PIRs is forcing Australians to buy on-line already because they don’t stock some works by Australian authors; and rural customers in particular, are forced into this purchasing method.

I have been told that you recognise the valuable cultural contribution Australia’s literary sector makes to reflecting and celebrating our identity. As a proud Australian author, I ask that you protect it.

From a personal perspective, I am urging you to keep PIRs in place and not destroy the local publishing industry, and kill the careers of dedicated writers like me before they have had a chance to flourish.

I spent more than ten years writing my young adult novel, Letters to Leonardo – that equates to more than 2,000 hours and more than 1,000,000 words in print. Obviously, I did not do it for the money (an hourly rate of around $3.00) – I wrote because I had a story to tell and because I wanted to share it with young Australians.

On behalf of my children, I beg you to consider the damage to our history and culture that would eventuate from reforms to existing copyright laws.

I also ask that you consider the future of authors like me, dedicated to their craft and to telling their stories the way they need to be told.

But above all, I ask you to remember that books are not ‘mere product’ , they are something of special significance, a reflection of the country and times in which we live – something to be valued; not thrown on the scrap heap for the sake of making a few quick bucks.

Yours sincerely,

 

Dee White

Author

 

Write to Canberra and tell our politicians how you feel about the prospect of removing Parallel Import Restrictions on books. These are the specific Ministers/and Opposition who are dealing with this issue:

The Hon Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Julia Gillard
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Education; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Social Inclusion
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Chris Bowen
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Peter Garrett, AM
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

OPPOSITION:
Senator the Hon Helen Coonan
Shadow Minister for Finance, Competition Policy and Deregulation
GPO Box 3513
Sydney NSW 2001

Mr Luke Hartsuyker MP
Shadow Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
(Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House)
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Mr Steven Ciobo MP
Shadow Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Leader of the Opposition
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Also contact the minority parties who hold the balance of power in the Federal Government.

If you want a lot more information … See  ‘How to get Politicians’ Attention‘  – from Electronic Frontiers Australia

You can also canvas your local Federal MP.  If you are not sure who your MP is, or how to contact them, or how to address them etc, look at this website which contains all that info! The most important thing is to show your MP how you personally could be effected by the repeal of Australia’s PIR’s – http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/lobby.html

PARALLEL IMPORTS ON BOOKS – Dear Mr Rudd, It’s me again…

Dear Mr Rudd,

I wrote to you back in April this year expressing my concerns about the Productivity Commission’s proposal to remove PIRs 12 months from the date of a book’s publication.

Unfortunately, since my last letter, things have got EVEN WORSE!

The Productivity Commission has declared that on the evidence before it (even though it admits there is not adequate current financial data available), removing Parallel Import Restrictions all together is going to be best for the Australian consumer.

The latest report claims that most of the benefits of PIR protection accrue to publishers, authors – and even printers. Are these people not consumers as well?

The Commission attempts to separate PIRs from Copyright (even though they are contained within the Copyright Act) yet territorial copyright will very definitely be affected.

Due to the absence of adequate current statistical data, the Commission has been forced to back it’s position by quoting Prices Surveillance Authority surveys from 1989 and ACCC reports dating back as far as 2001.

Let’s put vested interests aside  for a moment ( I admit I’m on the side of authors, publishers, booksellers not involved in the Coalition for Cheaper Books and our local printers.) My question is this…..

How can your senior economists recommend such sweeping changes to an entire industry – and produce a report (with more pages than I could be bothered counting) – all based on figures that are so outdated?

I’m no business guru – just an author surviving on a very average annual salary (that almost meets the cost of my kid’s school fees) – but even I would think that no business would contemplate change without studying the full financial implications – without examining the current statistics.

I hope you don’t mind me giving out your address Mr Rudd because I’m sure there are lots of people who will want to write to you about this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Dee White

Proud Australian Author

 

Tell our Prime Minister that Australian books are worth saving.

Write to

The Hon Kevin Rudd

Prime Minister

PO Box 6022

House of Representatives

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600