RESTRICTIONS, ‘RAT’S ARSE’ and REALITY

Guest BloggerSheryl Gwytherauthor, artist etc etc

Color and Mom; American words like faucet instead of tap, vacation instead of holiday … does the thought of Americanised spelling in Australian children’s books irritate or anger you? It bugs the hell out of many parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone with a love and loyalty to the Australian vernacular.

Unfortunately, there are also lots of Australians who ‘couldn’t give a rat’s arse’ (Aussie idiom) about a further encroaching of Americanised culture in Australia.

So I reckon it’s a mistake to let the debate get swallowed up on SPELLING – or putting it more directly, focusing on the threat of AMERICANISED spelling under Parallel Importation (+ the fading away of our own Australian landscape, experiences, ideas and references in Australian-authored children’s books).

Let’s not get bogged down on those aspects! Sure, it is especially of concern in children’s and Young Adult books – but there are other deeper, insidious and more devastating effects that will appear as cracks in the Australian home-grown publishing industry.

The Productivity Commission recommends that:  ‘The Government should repeal Australia’s Parallel Importation Restrictions (PIRs). The repeal should take effect three years after the date that it is announced.’ There are two more recommendations with far-reaching consequences. Check out the PC’s website to see them.

Abolishing the restrictions, would risk turning our vibrant, world-class and thriving publishing industry into warehouses for imported books from overseas, especially US versions of Australian books that haven’t sold well in North America. It will also mean the loss of many, many jobs.

When a publisher accepts an author’s manuscript it is the beginning of a 2-year+ partnership before actually seeing the book in bookshops. In those 18 months a ton of thought, consideration, passion, dialogue, money and time flows between the many parties involved in the birth of this new title.

There’s the author, editor, illustrator, cover designer, photographers, agent (maybe), numerous readers who ‘test-run’ the book, copyright editors, typesetters, printers, binders, publicity personnel, accountants, marketing personnel, distributors, delivery drivers, the list goes on. And that’s only one book – amongst thousands published in Australia.

An image strikes fear in Australian hearts … it’s already happening because our country is not immune from a global financial crisis … unemployment.

So who in their right minds would threaten a thriving industry that provides so many permanent, or part-time, guaranteed jobs?

And all based on the words of the ‘snake-oil salesmen’ with their illusionary promises of cheaper books. There is no guarantee of cheaper books. How many businesses do you know buy a lower-price product so they can pass on that saving to their customers? That’s not how profits are made.

There are Australians who consider books to be too expensive in this country – I wonder if they are the same people who go to a restaurant for lunch and spend $20 to $40 on a meal without blinking an eye … with nothing to show for it – well, not talking literally – except the wallet a bit thinner.

But they baulk at paying the same amount for a book published in Australian under the current copyright protection … a book – something concrete; something tangible to take home; something to slip out of its paper bag; open white pages of black print and smell the scent of newness.  Something that gives hours of pleasure, pain, terror, tears or belly-shaking laughter. And then it can be put on a ‘top-shelf’ to dip into again another time, or pass on to a friend to share. That’s the value of a good-quality, carefully chosen book in Australia.

I’ve talked to many people on the subject of the current moves to lift the Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of books – from both ends of the battlefield. I can empathise with the franchisee owners of Dymocks’ stores. They don’t want a war with authors – a love of books is probably the reason they own a bookshop. They are caught up in this deception that they’ll be able to sell cheaper books to customers. And they’re also threatened by the huge, multinational retail chains of Woolworths, Target, Big W, Coles and Kmart who constantly undercut the authentic bookshops’ prices.

Go talk to the manager and staff of your local, franchised Dymocks’ stores – let them know the full story behind these moves to lift the Restrictions on Parallel Importation of Books.

Go to the Productivity Commission’s website and read some of the articulate, informative and passionate submissions written by authors, publishers, booksellers and many others. You owe it to yourself as a reader; you owe it to the future of Australian books.

And if you really can’t afford to buy a book – head to your local PUBLIC LIBRARY. Where else in the world (besides Australia and New Zealand and I’ll gladly correct that if I’m wrong) would you find such a service – AND IT’S ALL FREE!

And the best thing about libraries? Authors receive a tiny percentage of each book sold to a library to cover the fact these are borrowed books not sold; like a form of royalty.

STOP PRESS!! A PETITION TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON THE SITE BY THE END OF THIS WEEK.  Please print copies from the PDF file and get as many signatures you can.
Follow the instructions on this site.

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3 thoughts on “RESTRICTIONS, ‘RAT’S ARSE’ and REALITY

  1. Yes, I completely agree. There is no guarantee the savings will be passed on anyway–and certainly no guarantee that it means people will buy more books. Goods should reflect their true value, in the broadest sense. And who’s going to stock all those important books that might only sell 3,000 or 4,000 copies? Not Coles or K-mart, that’s for sure.

  2. What will this all mean for school texts?
    Will our children be reading text books with American , English (British) examples and idioms? They will be if we do not assist to stop this lunacy. All educators, teacher organisations, and subject associations should be very concerned.
    Please support this campaign against the culture corporate monopolies. Concerned citizens should send material to their church groups, local libraries, unions and subject associations.

  3. If I go to the movies with my partner, and we perhaps buy a drink and popcorn each, we are looking at $50! Easily!
    Personally, I don’t buy the snacks. I usually sneak a chocolate bar in in my handbag. And I take my own bottle of water too.
    I prefer to save my money for books!
    Okay, so my priorities are different from many others, and that’s fine. BUT how many people DO spend a fortune at the movies, or buy the restaurant bottle of wine (that is double bottle shop price!) or buy their children every new video game that comes out? How many of these same people complain that books in Australia are too expensive, and perhaps go further and state that this stops them buying them?
    I think a lot of this argument comes down to how we value books, rather than how affordable they are.
    Do we risk losing some of the value of our books, by cheapening them? I’m afraid so.

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