Saturday, January 24, 2009

The ABA Stabs Itself in the Front. Amazing!

The Australian Booksellers Association has decided to reverse its long-standing policy of supporting the abolition of the 30/90 day rule, which restricts booksellers' ability to parallel import, and has instead opted for an illogical, impractical and risible 'compromise'.

On the one hand it has agreed with the publishers' line that abolition of the restrictions would strangle the local publishing industry.

This is so disappointing. The ABA has always been a voice of sanity in this long running debate, and now it has caved. It's a massive failure of thought and an abject failure of leadership.

Let's imagine for a moment that the publishers' horror scenario does actually unfold, that any distribution agreement or purchased territorial rights become thoroughly subverted: the only way this can happen, the mechanics of it, are for Australia's booksellers, en masse, to source everything from overseas including foreign editions, bypassing the local rights holding publisher at every turn. That is, they would commit commercial suicide by aggressively acting against their own best interests. This is what publishers are implying booksellers would do, that they are economic Visigoths.

Now the ABA comes along and AGREES with them! It says, yes, you're right, our members are so stupid that they would at every opportunity act against their commercial interests and, as a by-product, destroy local literary culture! No matter how reasonable the price of the local edition, no matter how fair the trading terms from the local publisher, no matter how good the distribution and customer care, no matter how beneficial to sales the publisher's marketing and publicity efforts, no matter the excellent personal service from the sales reps, no matter the impossibility of getting anywhere near the same deal from overseas wholesalers like Baker and Taylor.... we're gonna buy around, just because we can!

I'd call that stabbing yourself in the front!

But THEN, on the other hand, the ABA says that the provisions aren't working - they are restricting competition and need reforming! They should be tightened to a 7/7 rule, with a new regulatory regime to stop publishers over-pricing and under-servicing!

Ohmigod.. this is just sooo awful!

Guys, the whole point of the proposed abolition of the provisions is to allow competitive forces to deliver just what you say you want! You can't have it both ways! You either want it or you don't.

Obviously the ABA has been sucker-punched by the mass hysteria of the publishing and author communities...the emotional and unintelligent blah that has reached fever pitch and will brook no rational opposition.

What on earth the Productivity Commission makes of this is anyone's guess. Though I remain confident they won't be fooled.

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