David & Sheryl 1 crop vig1
Aussie children's books rule!

Just like no one likes a sore loser, no one likes a cocky winner! But, allow me the relief a good shout of victory brings.

We have won our battle against Parallel Importation of Books in a resounding victory – this morning the ALP Cabinet and Caucus decided not to follow the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to scrap them.

Many in the publishing industry have been part of this battle, and we at the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS blog campaign have been bouyed by the support we’ve received from Australian book lovers, including teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents.

The SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS campaign began last June in reaction to the pro-Parallel Imports push by some booksellers and the Productivity Commission.

We were mainly children’s authors in the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS blog group and our main concern was the future threat to the integrity of Australian children’s books and their authors and illustrators. See previous blogs on this site.

So, we celebrate our victory for young Australian readers of the future, and hopefully also those from other countries who will have the chance to read authentic Australian books.

Authors can breathe easier, for a while at least, until the next push comes from those who want to change the status quo. There are still many issues the Australian publishing industry must face in the future – like e-bo0ks, and further globalisation. Hopefully, sense will prevail as the industry tackles those challenges.

We long for the day when authors, artists and musicians are valued in this country and we don’t have to rely on royalties of 10% per book (if we’re lucky). Maybe we need what the French are doing?

Now we at Saving Aussie Books campaign can return to stories that need to be written … those indignant manuscripts that sat in files while the battle raged.

NOTE: I’ve talked to lots of people outside the publishing industry about this issue over the past year, and do you know what outraged them the most about the parallel import threat?  It was the threat of Australian children’s books being sold in this country from overseas publishers where  Mum had been changed to Mom .



on fireWhen Professor Allan Fels appeared on a panel at the Open Forum on PIs at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Saturday night and said, ‘Authors are being whipped up into frenzy by their publishers,’ I knew then this man (who is among the group calling for the abolition of Restrictions on PIs) has no real understanding of the issues at all. He appears to view it only from the perspective of a free-marketeer. I wonder if he’ll take notice of what an author says.

An open letter to Professor Allan Fels:

Dear Allan Fels,

Your main claim to fame was your work with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission where you won approval as ‘Australia’s best-known cartel buster and the scourge of price-fixing business and anti-competitive behaviour’. So, being the reasonable person I am, I understand your reasoning behind this apparent enthusiasm for Parallel Imports. But that doesn’t mean you are correct.

You also stated recently that: ‘The claim about dumping (of imports) is just fanciful. The vast majority of Australian books are for the Australian market – they’re not sold overseas. And if you were just saying there’s going to be a substitution of American for UK cultural influences, so what?’

If you had only taken your argument a step further you’d have to admit that if Australian publishers end up cutting back on future publishing programs because of imported books, they’ll restrict their intake of new untried authors and their support of developing authors, and future Australian books, plus retrench Australian workers. Surely not something even you would condone in your relentless seeking of an open-market in everything.

As to your last sentence above? I’ll leave that for others to judge.

There’s another aspect I can’t get my brain around, Professor Fels – you’re also a patron of Creativity Australia, a not-for-profit organization partnering with business, education, health, community and charity groups, government and philanthropists.

Their creed states:
“There has never been a more important time to develop those human attributes which set us apart from machines. We are entering a Creative/Conceptual Age and we require targeted creative programs and leadership engaging with the right side of the brain. By encouraging greater innovation and creativity, Creativity Australia will provide a new and exciting path to personal wellbeing, acceptance, social inclusion and happier and more productive members of our great Australian community.”

The organisation quotes from the work of Lotte Darsø – researcher, consultant, lecturer and author. Her main areas of interest are creativity and innovation as well as Arts-in-Business. “A profound change is taking place in the organisations that are seriously concerned about the future of business and society as they are realising that ‘rational man’ is giving way to ‘artful human’.

Maybe someone should remind you that creating stories is linked to being ‘artful humans’ too. Ah, well, one should never give up hope.

But back to the ‘frenzied authors’ comment – let me assure you, Mr Fels, we are not being pushed by publishers to take our stand against Parallel Imports. We believe in, and are delighted by the quality books being produced in this country. We are immensely proud of what we can offer readers of every nation not just our own. We are authors who don’t give up on what we believe in.

Yours sincerely
Sheryl Gwyther
Writer of children’s books – http://www.sherylgwyther.net
Enthusiastic member of SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS


Henry’s view on Parallel Imports of books into Australia

For a forthright, informative and very readable view of this vexing situation facing Australian authors, publishers, book buyers, booksellers and the Australian Government body, the Productivity Commission, read HENRY’S BLOG.

Henry Rosenbloom is the publisher at SCRIBE PUBLICATIONS, an independent book-publishing company based in Melbourne. They were awarded the Australian Small Publisher Of the Year –  2006, 2008.

Recent publications include Evan Thomas’s A Long Time Coming: the inspiring combative 2008 campaign and election of Barack Obama; and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life.

Check out Henry’s Blog NOW for a passionate take on the subject.

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 – http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books/submissions

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.’