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Andrew Barr comes out swinging against the publishing industry

By johnboy - 19 July 2009 81

To make my own biases clear, I’ve long been of the view that the Australian publishing industry is made up of a bunch of smug, underperforming, unimaginative bastards who conspire to make my beloved books more expensive.

I don’t know if they’d be first against the wall, waiting for a bullet, come the revolution. But if I had my way they wouldn’t have time to finish their memoirs.

But the publishing industry and the small number of writers who are their favourites are certainly good at getting in front of public megaphones. In the wake of the Productivity Commission calling for an end to restrictions on the parallel importation of books the self serving cries for the continuation of their rape of literacy, and the credence they’ve been given in some media, have been startling.

So it’s good to see the ACT’s Minister for Education, Andrew Barr really taking a red hot shot at the industry in return this morning.

The whole statement is well worth a read, but here are the highlights for mine:

    If bankrolling a publishing oligopoly in Australia prevents kids from reading cheaper books, then Australia has failed its children. Why allow our kids to play cheap video games from the US without any publishing restrictions, while making it more expensive for them to buy books?

    Like with CDs, clothing, footwear, cars, food and education, removing trade restrictions has made these items cheaper and more accessible for all Australians. It has also made Australia more prosperous.

    The sorts of arguments raised by those in favour of the current restrictions on books are identical to arguments made in favour of restrictions on parallel importing of music CDs.

    In spite of the dire warnings of those against reforms in the music industry a decade ago, we can still buy lots of quality Australian music. According to ARIA, around a quarter of the top-selling singles and albums for 2008 were local works. Total royalties paid to artists have increased. The predictions of an end to the Australian music industry proved baseless.

    In fact the arguments in favour of protecting Australia’s publishers are not so different from the arguments advanced in support of the White Australia policy last century. We need to protect our industry/ culture/ values/ institutions from foreign contamination. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

    Australia welcomed migrants and we’re all the better for it. We welcome foreign students and we’re all the better for it. We welcome foreign cars and we’re all the better for it. We welcome cheaper music and we’re all the better for it.

    Why can’t we have cheaper books?

What’s Your opinion?


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81 Responses to
Andrew Barr comes out swinging against the publishing industry
1
futto 1:42 pm
19 Jul 09
#

i cant wait for the day i can buy books from Amazon.com.au and get free shipping and delivery in a few days.

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2
johnboy 2:26 pm
19 Jul 09
#

futto said :

i cant wait for the day i can buy books from Amazon.com.au and get free shipping and delivery in a few days.

Just because you personally like shopping online is a poor reason to continue to ban the mass import of cheap books.

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3
Granny 2:41 pm
19 Jul 09
#

I think you may have misunderstood futto, jb.

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4
housebound 3:26 pm
19 Jul 09
#

I really hope the Commonwealth Senate ignores the local politician of a local government on this issue, and supports the ‘use it or lose it’ proposal (local exclusive rights for a year, and then open slather).

But then, ‘cheaper for the conmsumer’ is a rather economic rationalist argument that I have never supported as a goal in itself. (eg – and only to illustrate the principle here – Australian seafood might be dearer than cheap chinese fish impoarts, but at least we know it isn’t tainted with banned chemicals, and local oranges aren’t as cheap as dumped argentinian imports, but at least we maintain the capacity to grow our own food, and my Australian tea/coffee isn;t produced with child/slave labour)

Perhaps Andrew Barr could explain the need to attack a local industry on a Sunday afternoon, when the chances of any journalist getting an alternative view would be reduced.

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5
Granny 4:08 pm
19 Jul 09
#

The book prices here are ridiculous. There is simply no evidence-based justification for maintaining these unnecessarily inflated prices.

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6
futto 6:00 pm
19 Jul 09
#

Granny said :

I think you may have misunderstood futto, jb.

Haha. Yes. The .com.au was pretty subtle. I am very much in the pro-competion camp. I find it kind of ludacrius to suggest taxes and trade barries are what make me want to buy Australian.

I buy things that i WANT to buy. Entertain me or inform me and i will buy it, I don’t care what country the author is from nor what country the book is published in.

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7
farnarkler 6:06 pm
19 Jul 09
#

Johnboy publishers are far from the first in line to be shot come the revolution. Lawyers are first.

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8
Anna Key 6:08 pm
19 Jul 09
#

housebound said :

I really hope the Commonwealth Senate ignores the local politician of a local government on this issue, and supports the ‘use it or lose it’ proposal (local exclusive rights for a year, and then open slather).

But then, ‘cheaper for the conmsumer’ is a rather economic rationalist argument that I have never supported as a goal in itself. (eg – and only to illustrate the principle here – Australian seafood might be dearer than cheap chinese fish impoarts, but at least we know it isn’t tainted with banned chemicals, and local oranges aren’t as cheap as dumped argentinian imports, but at least we maintain the capacity to grow our own food, and my Australian tea/coffee isn;t produced with child/slave labour)

Perhaps Andrew Barr could explain the need to attack a local industry on a Sunday afternoon, when the chances of any journalist getting an alternative view would be reduced.

Firstly, there are quarantine and quality restrictions on imported food. A blanket ban is a cop out to not fund these properly and to not offend producers. I would much prefer argentinian oranges and stop the destruction of the Murray through growing food in totally unsuitable areas.

Secondly, why can’t those in support ie authors be available for comment on a Sunday? Too busy at the arts and crafts markets. On second thoughts, wasn’t it the Rush Hour track day today. I guess they would all be there.

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9
johnboy 6:11 pm
19 Jul 09
#

Apologies Futto, been hearing too many people saying “I’m alright with amazon jack”.

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10
Pelican Lini 6:20 pm
19 Jul 09
#

housebound,
you should get out more.
Dunno what oranges and seafood have to do with books.
Any evidence of chemical contaminations in o.s. ink?
More importantly, how come comics and “graphic novels” cost so much?
They appear to be imported.

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11
rosebud 6:49 pm
19 Jul 09
#

I nearly chocked on my chococuppolatte with mocha yesterday when I paid $36.99 for a new release book. Almost 40 bucks! Gasp!

I can’t wait for the day when I can conveniently and cheaply download a book onto some sort of useable reader. No more dusty books disintegrating in boxes under the bed, no more snot encrusted pages from the library to gag over. I hear a program, say Radio National book show talking about a book. I fancy reading it, go online and BAM! There it is. Lubbly jubbly.

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12
farnarkler 8:25 pm
19 Jul 09
#

Try this rosebud: http://www.e-book.com.au/freebooks.htm

The electronic readers aren’t exactly cheap…….at the moment. They’ll come down in price eventually, you just have to decide whether you want one now or you can hold out till the price becomes realistic.

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13
astrojax 9:08 pm
19 Jul 09
#

all good for the reader, but what about the livelihood of the writer, rosebud and others. does this not concern you? it should…

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14
boomacat 9:12 pm
19 Jul 09
#

farnarkler said :

Johnboy publishers are far from the first in line to be shot come the revolution. Lawyers are first.

Why are we first? I love how everyone hates lawyers, until they’re in some kind of legal trouble, and then they’re your best friend.

*cries into hands at lawyer related hatred*

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15
Woody Mann-Caruso 9:44 pm
19 Jul 09
#

all good for the reader, but what about the livelihood of the writer

F.ck ’em. Write decent stuff we want to read at a price we want to pay, or starve – the same as every single other industry in the world. We don’t owe anybody a living. “Think of the poor Aussie writers” is a logical absurdity if you take it to its conclusion:

“If we let in imports, nobody will buy Australian literature any more.”
“Really? Why? We buy it now.”
“Well, the American stuff might be better value.”
“So you’re saying we should make do with sh.tty overpriced writing to keep sh.tty overpriced writers in a job?”
“Sh.tty overpriced Australian writers, yes.”

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