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Australia’s Book Protection Policies Triumph!

April 13, 2011

From The Australian today by Imre Salusinszky

PUBLISHERS and authors were last night celebrating what they called “the sweetest victory of all” after the last bookshop in Australia closed its door to business.

“Our national identity is safe at last,” Australian Publishers Association boss Dylan McPhee said. “There will be no cheap foreign books on the shelves of Australian bookshops, because there will be no Australian bookshops.”

The demise of the industry in Australia climaxes a long campaign by local book producers.

Using their influence on government, publishers and authors for decades have managed to block the so-called “parallel importation” of legal US editions of books where there is a local copyright holder.

They were opposed by a coalition of bookshop owners and artist-hating economic rationalists who knew the price of everything but the value of nothing. These people harboured the misguided view ordinary families should be able to afford books.

While the campaign was touch-and-go for many years, the protectors of “our stories, in our words” scored a major victory earlier this year with the collapse of the Borders and Angus and Robertson book chains.

The large chain bookshops were turned into overpriced mausoleums by the ban on parallel importation – which meant it took months for the latest overseas releases to become available – and thus were no longer able to compete with online sellers.

But the champagne was kept on ice until last night, when the last bookshop in Australia, Dymocks in Toowoomba, shut its doors.

Melbourne University Press publisher Mildred Morehouse hailed the final demise of bookselling.

“No longer will we face the threat of being flooded with cheap US editions of beloved authors such as Thomas Keneally or Peter Carey, in which ‘sidewalk’ is substituted for ‘footpath’,” she said.

Ms Morehouse conceded there had never been a US edition of an Australian book in which “sidewalk” was substituted for “footpath”.
“There is always a first time,” she said.

“Foreign books will no longer be able to infiltrate our schools and households, for the simple reason there will be no books at all. We took the ultimate step against a free market in books: we destroyed the market.”

  1. Phil permalink
    April 13, 2011 12:45 pm

    To be frank protecting our local authors is one thing, protecting publisher monopoly profits is another. It is not only local publishing supposedly under threat from parallel imports that are out of the reach of the lower socio economic demographic. An example: I a psychologist recommended a book that I a should purchase. Authored and published in the US. Copies were available by ordering in Australia (A&R, Borders, Collins, Readings etc and even more specialised shops) unfortunately not available electronically. This particular book in Australia ranged in price from $36.00 up to $48.00. One chain had it available in store @$48 others 3-4 week lead time. The rub – I purchased it through Amazon latest edition new @$AU14.95 plus postage I recieved it 10 days later. By not being parochial I saved. Forgive me that I do not celebrate the momentus victory. It is not just our local authored books that publishers and major booksellers have been reaping the benefits from.

  2. ennui permalink
    April 13, 2011 1:19 pm


    Would you confirm those bizarre comments by Morehouse and their source.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      April 13, 2011 2:31 pm

      I assumed they were satire and the people being quoted were fiction.

  3. Andrew Desmond permalink
    April 13, 2011 8:44 pm

    Bravo Bob! Keep up the good work on this issue. I can’t remember when I last purchased a book in a local book store. I wish the situation were different but price is the final arbiter.

  4. April 14, 2011 6:17 am

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