Author Sally Murphy responds.
Now I’ve heard everything! The very organisation pushing for a change which will make it harder for publishers to publish wonderful Australian books, says the problem would be overcome by imposing a levy on those publishers to fund the publishing of wonderful Australian books.
Actually, Dymocks, the organisation to which I refer, doesn’t use the term ‘wonderful Australian books’. Instead, it uses the vague (but ever so clever sounding) term ”culturally worthwhile”.
What Dymocks is arguing here (http://www.theage.com.au/national/dymocks-says-levy-could-fund-writers-20091026-hgr4.html) is that if PIRs are scrapped and this is detrimental to the production of “culturally worthwhile” books, then a one per cent levy imposed on publishers could fund a scheme to ensure that these “culturally worthwhile” books are funded. Such wonderful logic! Let’s scrap the scheme which currently supports the publishing industry, then, once we’ve decimated it, impose a levy on those publishers which do stay afloat to ensure they continue to produce the quality of books they did before it was scrapped.
Only one or three holes in this argument that I can see. Firstly, publishers already currently produce “culturally worthwhile” books. They do so because they enjoy the protection of PIRs, just as publishers in other countries enjoy similar protection. If we want them to continue to do so, we should continue to protect them . Leave PIRs in place and no levy is necessary.
Secondly, if publishers are harmed by the removal of PIRs (and they will be), how can they then afford an extra levy placed on their diminished sales? They are being whipped twice, driving them further towards insolvency.
Thirdly, Dymocks, and its fellow members of the Cheaper Books brigade are campaigning for cheaper books – but calling for a levy which would surely increase the price of books. Not only that, but this levy would only be applied to Australian books, yet the changes they are seeking is so they can sell less Australian books by importing more from overseas. If no Australian books are being sold, where is this levy going to come from?
I have my own suggestion for ensuring the ongoing production of ‘culturally worthwhile” books – except I prefer to call them ‘wonderful Australian books’. My suggestion? Protect the Australian publishing industry by retaining PIRs. Radical, I know, but there you have it.