Queensland children’s authors to protest

Many of Queensland’s children’s authors will take part in a peaceful protest in front of Brisbane city’s Dymocks Bookstore on Thursday 16th April.

We disagree with the Coalition for Cheaper Books’ claims that removing the restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books (PIRs) will allow them to sell cheaper books. This is not guaranteed at all.

The Coalition for Cheaper Books represents booksellers in Australia with a combined market share of approximately forty per cent of book sales. Members are the large franchisee business Dymocks and the major retail chains of Woolworths, Coles, K Mart, Big W and Target. (Productivity Commission’s discussion draft March 2009)

Scrapping the protection of PIRs will cause much damage to the thriving Australian publishing industry; threaten the livelihood of authors by opening the gates to a flood of remaindered books from overseas; and risks losing books that Australian children will identify with.

We do not feel antagonistic towards the staff of Dymocks – it is a difficult situation for all concerned because many of these caring staff  love children’s books and support the authors.

But our continued existence in this industry is threatened by the push to lift the PI restrictions.

Please note: A & R and Borders are two chains owned by RedGroupRetail. They are members of the Australian Booksellers Association and they do not support the abolition of territorial copyright. These two chains have actively supported the submission to the Productivity Commission by the ABA which argued for the retention of territorial copyright.

When: Thursday 16th April 10.30am

Where:  Cnr Queen and Edward Streets, Brisbane

If you are able to support us, please do. Just a reminder – we should ensure Dymocks’ customers have clear access into Dymocks and also pedestrian access along the street.

S.O.S. – Australian authors in peril

I’ve written before about the Australian government body, the Productivity Commission’s inquiry in the lifting of restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books to Australia. (PIRs)

Now they’ve geared up for the next stage of submissions, round-table conferences etc before passing it all over to the Federal Government for a decision.

Let me be blunt here – there was as much need to change the current ruling as a fish needs to smoke.

Arguments put forward by the put-together group, the Coalition for Cheaper Books say that lifting the restrictions will ensure cheaper books in Australia. The Coalition members are the large franchisee business Dymocks and major discount retail chains of Woolworths, Coles, K Mart, Big W and Target.

But there is no guarantee that books will be cheaper – in fact, the Productivity Commission even admitted this fact themselves on page 4.11 in their recent Discussion Draft.

The Coalition for Cheaper Books want to scrap the restrictions altogether. If the PIRs are lifted, it basically means that authors receive less royalties because if a book is published overseas authors don’t get the full 10% royalty, they get a % of the royalty depending on where the book is sold and for how much. And if the book is remaindered, authors usually get nothing – because the price of the book falls below the production cost.

But my biggest concern is that our Australian children’s picture books and novels will be geared to the US market first. We all know what happens if the American publishing market gets an Aussie title – they change the spelling and the content to fit the taste, understandings and sensibilities of American readers. So yes, for a start MUM will become MOM.

The Productivity Commission’s discussion draft recommends three things, the first being: That Australia’s Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) for books should be modified as follows:

  • PIRs should apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia. Thereafter, parallel importation should be freely permitted.

Established authors will be disadvantaged by this ruling as in many cases the second year sees more book sales – this means that a successful author like Kate Grenville, whose books generally do better the second year they’re out, and her publisher, Text Publishing Company will be much worse off financially.

The same applies to any author in Australian. In the second year after publication cheap imports of books will be allowed into the country; publishers will cut back on taking ‘risks’ with non-established authors. Developing authors like myself, and all those committed writers out there who work to become published authors will have as much chance as … yes, that fish having a ciggie.

You, as an Australian book buyer have a choice. Would you rather ….

  1. (Possibly) pay a few dollars less for a book of inferior quality? Remembering cheapness is not a guaranteed fact.   ….OR….
  2. Pay for a carefully chosen book by an Australian author and/or illustrator, thereby ensuring the continued publishing of books by Australian authors; and the guarantee that what your children will read will be stories written by Australians, with Australian content, spelling, landscape et al!


Inform as many people as you can about this important issue PARENTS … GRANDPARENTS … TEACHERS … LIBRARIANS … BOOKLOVERS.

Write to politicians – they will make the final decision in the Federal Parliament.

PS I know a great way to drop the price on books – get rid of their GST. We don’t pay GST on essential food items, why pay it on that other essential item for the mind, books?

The gloves are off!

Many Australian eyes will be on Barack Obama’s Inauguration to the White House on Tuesday the 20th January.

But Tuesday marks a far more important date for Australian readers and writers.

It’s D-day for submissions to the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the lifting of Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books into Australia. The last chance for you to voice your concern about this possibility.

Publishing industries shake their collective heads in dismay and disbelief – how can this be the sixth time this battle has been fought? Independent booksellers wonder where it will all lead – they’d only hoped for an overhaul of the 30-day rule on the restrictions.

Authors who fear for their livelihoods cope in different ways – some are out there fighting against it, some can’t face the thought of getting involved in politics (and that is exactly what this is), some feel disempowered by the might of the forces lined up against Australian writing.

The main players supporting the scrapping of Copyright Restrictions appear to be the huge book-selling chains – Dymocks, Woolworths and Myers; Bob Carr (ex-Premier of NSW and director of Dymocks); and individuals who support the free market (from all political persuasions, State and Federal government Treasuries and Competition Commissions).

This issue reared its head for the sixth time at the Premiers’ conference last July. It was never debated; it slipped through and was signed off on by all Premiers. Sydney Morning Herald journalist and author, David Marr writes of how Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia was ‘surprised to find, on closer examination, a dozen or so words on page 14 about another inquiry into the book trade. The initiative came from the Commonwealth Treasure via a new group of state and federal officials…’

New Zealand lifted their Parallel Importation restrictions 10 years ago. Want to know what’s ahead for Australia if restrictions are lifted to allow a ‘free-for-all’?

Go to the New Zealand Society of Authors submission to the Australian Productivity Commission –

This is what Australia faces in the years ahead.

If you haven’t sent your submission to the Productivity Commission, now is your last chance.

The gloves are off in this debate – I suggest further steps:

  1. Talk or write to your local politician about this issue.
  2. Write to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
  3. Write to the Minister of Arts, Peter Garrett.

If the Productivity Commissions decides in favour of lifting Parallel Imports on Books, I (and many others) will be boycotting the books sold by Dymocks, Myers and Woolworths.

As David Marr says, ‘that’s when the political brawls in defence of the nation’s biggest cultural industry will begin.’