Simon Rumble writes: Re. “#amazonfail: With book monopolies like these, no-one is safe” (yesterday, item 4). I must have missed the memo, but I don’t get the local publisher’s argument and why I should care about their protectionist little racket. Every time I’ve looked, I can generally buy two or three books delivered from Amazon in the US for the price of one book bought in a local store. This metric works across subject ranges and regardless of exchange rate fluctuations, for just about any book except the high-volume out-of-copyright stuff (Dickens, Shakespeare et al) and stuff in the remainder discount stores, but you don’t get the range there. So their argument is we should have to pay more because? And their industry is different to all others because?

Peter Frank writes: I agree that Amazon’s direction is alarming but why use them anyhow? They don’t offer value for money anymore and even with current extortionate shipping costs, they still take weeks to deliver. I suggest instead that you advise your readers to support alternate suppliers, e.g. the rapidly improving Book Depository Company in the UK. Their prices are on par with Amazon, they ship to Australia for free and within three to four working days of placing an order.

Libby Gleeson writes: Moira Smith (yesterday, comments) wrote that books have been far too expensive in Australia for years. If you read the Discussion Draft of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry you’ll see they found no evidence that book prices would fall if the restrictions to parallel importation were removed. There was even a suggestion that prices might rise. The situation in New Zealand where the restrictions have been removed is that the local market has been swamped by imports and book prices have not dropped. Don’t believe the statements by Dymocks and their mates. There is no guarantee that there will be cheaper books.


Warwick Sauer writes: Re. “Brisconnections and Macbank is no David and Goliath” (yesterday, item 3). Adam Schwab’s piece on Brisconnections contains the most basic of errors, and it strikes at the heart of Nicholas Bolton’s methodology. Bolton has never owned even a single Brisconnections unit. As is spelled out in myriad ASX releases and press articles (and in Schwab’s own piece!), all of the units “he” purchased were in fact purchased by a company he controls, Australian Style Investments Pty Ltd.

One might have hoped that a (proud to be ex-) corporate lawyer like Schwab would be familiar with the fundamental concept of the “corporate veil”, but it seems that perhaps he is not. If it assists, the point is this: Bolton himself has never been at risk of bankruptcy. Instead, his company has been at risk of liquidation — which is a very important distinction.

The Press Council:

Joanna Mendelssohn writes: Re. “‘Dumb!’ ‘Insulting!’ ‘Hughesian!’ Art criticism goes the biff” (yesterday, item 6). I don’t know how to break this to Ben Eltham, but not every complaint to the Press Council ends up in the minutes of formal meetings. In my case, after John McDonald combined with Paul Sheehan to damage my reputation, I contacted the admirable Jack Herman, Executive Secretary of the Press Council who then gave the facts of the matter to Mark Scott, at that time working at the SMH. It was Mark Scott who contacted me and enabled me to have the right of reply to both John’s original allegations (which had been denied me in the letters pages of the SMH) and to the later, equally scurrilous allegations.

The reason why every serious reviewer of Art of Australia has problems with the book is not a giant conspiracy against the author (as tempting as he may find that scenario). It is simply that a major publisher (MacMillan) has produced an expensive book (rrp $125) with the claim that it is a major original study of a serious subject. The reviewers have tested it against its own claims and found it wanting. In this case the problem is not just that of the author, but also the entire editorial team. It is a big book and some mistakes can slip past authors, but that’s why publishers employ editors.

Peak oil:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The elephant in the middle of the freeway: peak oil” (yesterday, item 26). Bruce Robinson may be convenor of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas but how much thought has he given the topic? According to him, ‘”eak Oil does not mean ‘running out of oil’, but a change from a growth trend — increasing annual production, to a decline trend — decreasing annual production. It means there will soon be a gap between growing or steady demand trends and a future declining supply trend.”

Firstly, he’s convinced supply will decline. Well, he’ll be right sooner or later. Secondly, he’s convinced that the “very high oil prices” that result will not affect demand. Why not? Why won’t alternatives be more attractive? Why should the forces of supply and demand only work one way? I don’t think his Association has studied anything in particular.

The Philippines:

Wayne Smith writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Personally, I reckon John Safran is about to be revealed as the face for some less annoying Bunnings ads. But seriously, Philippines has been in the news for more urgent reasons recently. David Marr mentioned, in the SMH last Saturday, Philippines in the context of the Vatican’s attitude to condom use in relation to protection from HIV/ADIDS. However, the HIV issue is but one face of the Vatican’s opposition to condom use (and contraceptive use in general).

The Vatican also strongly opposes family-planning programs in the Philippine Islands (and, I dare say, Africa). NGOs that run or promote family planning education are blocked from funding ANY sort of community aid programs in the country. This in a nation that went to the brink of famine during the 2007-08 food crisis.

Zionists and Nazis:

Michael Brull writes: Re. “Rundle: Zionists, nazis, connected, discuss” (yesterday, item 16). I’m not a subscriber to Crikey, so I should acknowledge that my access to the article by Guy Rundle depends on someone sending it to me. Nevertheless, in his article on Zionism, comparisons to Nazism and so on, Rundle comments on the controversy between me in New Matilda and Mendes. Rundle claims to bring a new insight to the argument: “one single point that no-one makes in these debates is that, as far as accusing Zionists of being Nazis, the past present and future champions are other Zionists.”

However, in the New Matilda article he references, I say “Empirically, what Mendes asserts is broadly under-informed. For example, Israeli political discourse has long been accustomed to rash comparisons to Nazis, including comparisons made by and about Israel’s own founding fathers.”

The link is to my blog, where I documented various cases of Zionists accusing other Zionists of being Nazis. As Rundle’s article basically affirms what I’ve written, I can welcome it, insofar as Australian public debate on Zionism and Israel is often not tied up with these sorts of unpleasant historical facts.

However, I think he or Crikey should acknowledge that rather than bringing up a wonderful new third perspective in the debate, he has simply corroborated a point that I’ve repeatedly made in these controversies over anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

First Dog on the Moon:

Charles Miller writes: Re. Greg Williams (yesterday, comments). Whenever someone makes a joke at the expense of Christianity, you can guarantee at least one response takes the form: “You wouldn’t dare make fun of Muslims like that!” The whole thing smacks of envy. If only our lunatic extremist fringe was as violent as theirs, nobody would push us around! Is that really a state of affairs to aspire to, or should you instead be proud that your religion is sufficiently secure in its own belief to endure a light-hearted ribbing?

Charlie McColl writes: I don’t understand where Greg Williams is coming from when he accuses First Dog of “gutlessness” in writing a cartoon. The cartoon is written isn’t it? It is about Easter isn’t it? If it is offensive to anyone they are perfectly free to complain about that to someone who cares. But Mr Williams is not offended by the cartoon; he is outraged that this cartoon is not about some other subject that he thinks might be offensive to someone else. What is the point of his proposition? What is “gutlessness? Is it envy in hindsight?

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