Australian authors Jackie French and Mem Fox respond to yesterday's article on parallel import restrictions on books.
On parallel import restrictions
Mem Fox writes:
Re. "It's time to kill parallel import restrictions
" (yesterday). Evan Mulholland needs to stop whining about the parallel importation of books and start worrying about the death of our culture should PIRs be abolished. Like him, I’m an Australian book-lover, but I know damn well that cheaper books have long been available to me and to any Australian buyer through the internet. If he doesn’t know that, he’s not a book-lover.
He quotes a 2012 review of a similar PIR reform in NZ, which is obviously out of date by fours unhappy years: the local NZ publishing industry has collapsed, meaning their national voice is now rarely heard in the new literature available to them. The same has happened in Canada.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s my book, Possum Magic
, was rejected nine times over five years with several publishers in Australia, claiming it was "too Australian" to be published. Thirty three later it is still available in hardback, which is no small measure of our hunger to see ourselves reflected in the literature we read. Don’t tell me that Evan Mulholland is willing to return us to the hideous era of culture cringe. I couldn’t stand it. And I won’t put up with his spurious, pouty arguments either.
Jackie French writes:
Could we, possibly, keep to matters that can be substantiated, instead of slanging Australian authors?
Myth: The Copyright Act of 1968 prevents the importation of overseas titles if an Australian publisher has also published them.
Fact: Australian individuals can and do legally import titles from overseas. The copyright holder (usually the author) can also give permission for titles to be imported to whichever country they have given a license to publish.
Fact: This matter is not simple -if it were, there would be fewer lawyers specialising in copyright and intellectual property- but those who wish to do away with PR are trying to make it seem simple. There are many reasons why the USA, the UK and other major nations all have a form of PIR. If you wish, I could give you a 25 hour lecture on the complexities, about the same number of hours it took me to do a unit in copyright law, plus another few decades to get the experience to understand how it works.
Myth: Australian books are more expensive than overseas, and will be cheaper if PIR is abolished.
Fact: According to the APA International Price Analysis 2016, a study of 150 representative books sold in the USA, UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Australia showed that prices were MORE expensive in NZ and Hong Kong, the only two countries where PIR has been abolished. In all but one case, where a title was cheaper in the UK, the books were either cheaper, in Australia than all other countries, or much the same price.
Myth: There has been no impact on NZ publishing since PIR was abolished in 1998.
Fact: According to Neilson Bookscan the range of books sold in NZ since 2008, when figures began to be collected, has shrunk by 34.5%. The volume of books has shrunk by 15.7% since 2009. Prices of books in NZ have risen 7.6% since 2008, while prices of books have dropped (become cheaper) in Australia in that period by 12.4%.
Two points to consider:
- If abolishing PIR will make books cheaper and more available to bookshops, why is the Australian Booksellers Association so deeply in favour of its retention?
- The wombat on the doormat rather than the elephant in the room is that Australian content is at stake here.
Internationally renowned authors tend to be brilliant, extraordinarily well and broadly educated, both formally and by their own efforts, and able to absorb, analyse and correlate vast amounts of data. When writers as differing in their world views as Peter Fitzsimmons and Thomas Keneally agree, it is reasonable to assume that they are correct.