I always intended to focus my blog on books and reading, not issues. But every now and then an issue comes along that is too important to let pass without comment. Yes, I am talking about the Productivity Commission's draft report recommendations regarding Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books.
To some people this is all about cheaper books and authors are complaining simply to protect their own interests. That's incorrect. And it is equally incorrect to assume that all practices that restrict competition to any degree are bad or undesirable.
What is at issue here is the Australian publishing industry and the books it provides to the Australian reading public and education sysytem. I do have a vested interest as an author but I also have an equally vested interest as a member of the reading public and parent who wants to see Australian content in their children's reading material.
The Australian publishing industry is dynamic and healthy. It has nurtured the growth of many valuable exports from bestselling authors such as Matthew Reilly and Marcus Zusak to twice Booker award winner Peter Carey. You can find their personal submissions opposing the recommended changes along with almost 400 others, from various areas of the community, at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books/submissions . And there's more to come as a number, including my own, are yet to be listed.
As a reader I currently have access to a wide range of choice of titles at competitive prices. I can easily find books for my children that feature culture, people and settings they find familar. These, among other benefits, are directly threatened by the proposed changes. I won't go into details here but you can find them in the submissions including those from the individual professional associations of Australian Booksellers, Australian Authors and Australian Publishers.
The largest publishing nations in the world, the UK and the US, have restrictions in place. Copyright and parallel importation restrictions are not inherently bad as the Commission would lead us to believe. They are a necessary feature of this marketplace. Any marketplace is an economic battlefield. At the moment we all have machine guns but the Productivity Commission, by reducing the protective restrictions to twelve months only, will leave the Australian publishing industry holding a big stick. It has been suggested the industry will then be encouraged to become smarter and more efficient in order to compete.
It doesn't take much imagination to work out what happens when the smart, efficient soldier with a big stick is met by a machine gun.
If you want speak out against the recommendations you can sign the Australians for Books petition on-line here http://www.ausbooks.com.au/index.php