Our children’s literary future is in our hands

Guest bloggerAngela Sunde, parent, literacy teacher, writer

Recently I went to The Byron Bay Writers Festival. It is one of the richest experiences the public can enjoy in Australia. The writings, the readings and the discussions are all music for the soul and the intellect. What a pity these festivals across Australia will reduce in size and may potentially fizzle out as fewer Australian publishers invest in home grown talent and nurture local authors.

Should the Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) on books be lifted, it is likely this will happen. The Productivity Commission states in its Report: 5.14 ‘there would likely be a reduction in publishing activity.’

Australian editions of books like ‘Harry Potter’ (published here) provide Australian publishers with the financial means to continue to invest in Australian-authored books which may have a smaller print run. Without this investment many Australian stories will not be told, new talent will go undiscovered and fewer Australian children’s books will be published, especially picture books which are dearer to produce.

Early childhood educators rely on the Australian picture book to give our children a sense of ‘self’ and of who they are as Australians.

the joy of readingIf PIRs are lifted the foreign editions of Australian books will be sold here side by side with the Australian edition.

The Productivity Commission admits that the foreign edition may  displace the sale of the Australian published book, thereby directly affecting income further: 5.14 ‘the author would lose the royalty on that sale.’ Not only does he/she receives no royalty on the ‘remaindered’ copy, but also misses out on selling the local edition – a no win situation. The author loses the ‘job’.

With a diminished local publishing industry jobs will also be lost in printing, design, illustration, distribution, marketing, editing and publishing.

So this adds up to:

  • Fewer Australian books published, specifically children’s books
  • Loss of sales and income to foreign imports
  • Risk of no opportunities for young Australians/new talent in the industry
  • Loss of Australian voice as authors are forced to write for the global market

I grew up on a literary diet of UK and US authors. At ten years of age I did not believe that anything exciting could possibly happen to a kid from Downunder. For my children all that has changed. They love to read Australian-authored books and this has instilled in them a sense of who they are and a feeling of self worth and confidence in their Australian identity. I fear now that if the PIRs are lifted my future grandchildren will only hear about the ‘great age of Australian literature.’

Books with Australian content that reflect our social and cultural values; stories that share indigenous beliefs are some of the few enlightening resources still available to our children. Young people are already bombarded with more than enough popular foreign culture and language in the forms of music, movies and  food without taking away the only resource left to them which reflects who they are – Aussie books.

Our children’s literary future is in our hands. It is a great responsibility.

I urge you to sign the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS PETITION. There is a downloadable one so you can get lots of other signatures in your friends, family and workplace; or the online one – useful for those who can’t get to the paper petition. Do it before it is too late – September 1 (paper petition).

We must maintain the current Restrictions against Parallel Importation of books.


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