Australian author of Monster Blood Tattoo and amazing illustrator and artist, D.M. Cornish gives his take on the threatened Parallel Imports of books and gets ‘a tad worked up’, and why wouldn’t he?
If Parallel Import Restrictions had not been in place in Australia when he accidently dropped his now-famous illustrated notebooks and they hadn’t been picked up by publisher, Dyan Blacklock, well you know the rest of the story…..
Guest Blogger: D.M. Cornish
July 20: I am feeling pretty good having just handed in the first 20 chapters of the 2nd draft of Book 3 (with about 7 or so to go) to my editor, Celia, here in Oz. This is a tunnel after all, not the ceaseless dark of endless night I feared. Phew! I was beginning to wonder there…
I am also feeling rather bemused because here in Australia our government is contemplating the abolition of Parallel Importation Restrictions in our country. This might appear as a good thing, yes? ‘Restriction’ is a bad word – we should get rid of ‘restrictions’, it sounds like they are impinging on our ‘freedom’.
Yet the purpose of Parallel Importation Restrictions (and they exist in the UK and US as well) is to provide a frame work by which an author can make income from the licencing of the copyright of their story within the three major English speaking markets. So these ‘restrictions’ actually create clear boundaries by which the publishers in each country knows how to behave towards both authors and the others publishers’ markets, and an author themselves has chance to licence their copyright to its fullest potential. So these ‘restrictions’ actually provide clarity and strangely, a kind of ‘freedom’.
The oft-stated benefit of their removal here will be to reduce the price of books by opening our market to cheaper foreign editions. Its real effect, I am afraid, will be to seriously harm Australian authors’ ability to make a living from their trade and diminish their access to a viable local publishing industry… and is unlikely to do much to revive people’s interest in books, for it is interest in reading itself in this age of easy entertainment that is the problem, not the price of the material to be read.
Those lobbying for such a law are the Mr Bigs (K-mart, Target, Big-W, Coles & Dymocks, styling themselves the Coalition for Cheaper Books) seeking cheaper books, telling us with such genuine pleading concern for we the reading public that their main aim is literacy. They say that cheaper books will improve reading as more people can afford to buy them. (When corporations pretend care for people I see red flags going up all over the place.)
What I hate most about this line of argument is that it seems such a cynical play for the higher moral ground, as if these corporations genuinely care for you and yours and need to defend your rights to a literate future. Shareholders and profit margins are their domains, don’t be fooled folks.
What-is-more, it is not even true for two reasons, a/ it is unlikely that the buying public will see much bar a token reduction in book prices as the Mr Bigs simply pocket the increased difference, & b/they are called libraries, been around for a while now and books there are FREE there.
What I resent about all this is why it is I who should subsidise the bookselling industry here, if Amazon can figure a way to distribute books so cheaply, why can’t our local sellers do the same? Industry reform seems a better option. It is not the authors’ fault for bad business models in other parts of this whole book thing.
If there were no Parallel Importation Restrictions in place 6 years ago (2003) when I first dropped my notebook in front of Dyan Blacklock, my publisher and discoverer, there is little likelihood she would have given me the opportunity to write she did. She would have been unwilling to risk making Monster-Blood Tattoo happen only for it to be taken up by a foreign publisher and have those overseas editions being sold back here into Oz in direct competition with the Australian one.
Bizarre, huh… But that is what our government is contemplating.
The very real problem posed for me (and every other author potential or realised in this country) is if Parallel Importation is allowed to occur here in Australia, do I a/go with overseas publishers and forgo an Australian edition OR b/refuse to publish anywhere else but Australia in support of the local industry. Either way I lose income and someone out there in one country or another will find it hard to get copies of my books.
Far out! I would just like to write books and sell them fairly, you bureaucratical glaucologues (see Explicarium Book 2) – enough with the potential moral dilemmas already!
As you can see I am a tad worked up about this; why would I not be? My livelihood is at stake here.
But then again, why should I hope to make a living from this writing thing anyway? After all, that ‘creativity’ stuff is really just for children and grant-sponging hippie no-hopers isn’t it? Surely I should grow up, cut my hair and get myself a real job…
An excellent article I have read on the matter is by James Bradley over at City of Tongues. (The comments are worthy reading, allowing him to expand his point)
It is important to note that neither the US or UK have any intention of abolishing their parallel importation legislation. I do not think the Australian publishing market could survive long as anything more than a discount warehouse for foreign importers under such an onslaught (and I am not sure the Coalition for Cheaper Books really cares if such a thing occurs – indeed, I have this suspicion it might actually play into their careful economic schedules).
So, regardless of my own left-wing opinions on corporations, if you value that someone like me (and you too, working away on your own masterpiece) can be given a chance to get their passion published and to make a living from that passion here in Australia; if you hold dear the existence and breadth of subject matter of your local independent Australian bookseller, then please, let your voice be heard (prayers, letters, blogs – you name it).
Here is a link to guidelines for writing letters to MPs on this issue (yes it is that serious) and their addresses at SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS..
Here is an excellent article about the fiscal issues behind the current issue at SAVINGAUSSIEBOOKS.
Here is the website for the Australian Society of Authors (bless their cotton socks) that has many links to explore the issue further.