Dear (Member of Parliament)
Re: Productivity Commission’s Report into Parallel Importation of Books into Australia
I am writing to voice my concern at the PC’s recommendations about lifting the Restrictions against Parallel Importation of Books.
I believe this move, if passed by Parliament will do great harm to the Australian publishing industry – not only through the loss of a great number of jobs, but also to the future of Australian books.
There is no guarantee that books will be cheaper under the PC’s recommended abolition of Territorial Copyright laws (even the Productivity Commission admits there is no guarantee of this). What it will do is open our book market up to a flood of foreign imports of editions of Australian books. Not only will it turn Australian publishing houses into the warehouses for their overseas branches, but it will send independent Australian publishing companies to the wall.
Another great concern is the fact that when Australian books are re-published in North America, they are changed to suit the US market. Nowhere is this more pertinent and worrying than that of children’s books – where spelling becomes Americanised, terms and idioms are sanitised, references to Australian places and experiences are deleted. Even the humour is adjusted so American children can understand Aussie humour, or taken out if they don’t.
Now, that might be fine for Australian books being read by American children, and presently these editions are not allowed to be sold in Australian bookshops. But if the Parallel Import restrictions are lifted the American editions will become available in Australia. Children will be exposed to two versions of spelling at an age when they need hardly run the risk of literacy difficulties. Parents won’t know if their children are reading the true-blue Australian version or the pale, facsimiled American one, unless they know to look behind the cover.
I believe it is vital for Australia’s future as a nation that its children grow up with a firm grounding in the written language and the stories of their own country.
I hope the Australian Government will consider carefully the multitudes of submissions from committed people who believe in our viable publishing industry and the future of our unique Australian stories, and decide not to follow the Productivity Commissions’s recommendation to abolish restrictions on Parallel Importation of books.
Sheryl Gwyther – author