Tuesday, May 4, 2010

CBA Requests All-Access Pass to American Publications

As some of you may know, I have a good number of friends in Canada. I love them to pieces and so when they occassionally ask me to send them books or certain clothing that they can't buy--or import--in Canada, I'm happy to help out. But not all Canadians are quite so lucky. ;) Most have no way of procuring such items as the country's import bans are pretty much iron-clad.

The Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), however, is at least trying to address the book-related part of the issue, according to Quill and Quire:

In a bid to force publishers to lower Canadian book prices, the Canadian Booksellers Association is asking the federal government to consider amending the laws that restrict the import of foreign books into the country.

In a press release sent out on Friday, the association said the current regulations that limit “parallel importation” are “no longer commercially reasonable and should be repealed.” The CBA expressed its views in a meeting with Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore on Thursday.

Under the current guidelines, which are governed by the Copyright Act, Canadian booksellers must buy directly from Canadian-owned distributors (such as H.B. Fenn and Company or Canadian Manda Group) and the Canadian arms of multinational publishing houses (such as HarperCollins Canada or Random House of Canada). Booksellers can circumvent the Canadian supply chain and buy directly from the U.S. only if certain titles aren’t available from Canadian sources or are priced at more than 10% of the U.S. price, given that the Canadian dollar is at par. (When the Canadian dollar is valued at less than the U.S. dollar, the price discrepancy allowed under the act is greater.)

If the current regulations are repealed, and if the Canadian dollar (which closed at $0.98 U.S. on Thursday) remains at parity, publishers would be obliged to price their books in line with U.S. titles, or else booksellers could buy directly from U.S. suppliers such as Ingram or Amazon.com.

In an e-mail to Q&Q, CBA vice-president Mark Lefebvre describes the current guidelines as “anti-competitive” and amounting to “a tariff on the Canadian book-buying public.”

Read more HERE

Lifting the ban, as the article explains, will cause a lot of strife in the Canadian publishing world, with publishers no longer being able to overprice their books. But for consumers, booksellers, and for us U.S. publishers, the amended law would be a win-win situation.

For the most part.

Ben McNally--owner of the indy bookstore Ben McNally Books in Toronto--is one bookseller who isn't on board with the idea. Below is Mr. McNally's letter to Q&Q in response to the above piece:

While there certainly is much precedent for the Canadian Booksellers Association to act in a short-sighted and self-defeating fashion, the news that the association has asked the Government of Canada to allow it to bypass Canadian agents and buy directly from the United States really has taken matters too far.

The Canadian book business is small and fragile. The only way it can hope to survive is for all the parties in it to recognize that we are in a partnership, not an antagonistic relationship. Anyone who thinks that the health of the publishing community is not the health of the bookselling community is seriously deluded.

When the dollar unexpectedly strengthened the last time we missed a glorious opportunity to stand together as an industry and explain to the people of Canada what a vital part of its culture we are, and that if we we’re to hope to maintain a publishing industry in this country, higher book prices are not only inevitable but desirable.

This time there is no excuse. If we turn our backs on our partners at this difficult time we will only have ourselves to blame if the Canadian publishing business withers on the vine.

In my opinion this is disgraceful behaviour. This is a selfish and short-sighted attempt to have the cake and eat it, and I am appalled that it has happened without consultation with the publishers, on whom we depend for all facets of our business.

The Canadian Booksellers Association does not speak for me. I have no wish to be a part of this organization.

See the full letter HERE
Come on now, my dear Canadian readers, let us know what YOU think!

Americans, you feel free to chime in too, of course. :-p

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