Saturday, July 25, 2009

Culture Dump: Cheaper or Better Books?

I have been following the ongoing discussion about the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the price of book and I really feel it's another case of don't let accountants make policy.

Books are great, I love them. It's like music, I always prefer to buy a CD from a local band at one of their own gig's, because, I know that the musicians are getting a decent slice of the purchase price.

The one argument, out of them all on this issue, with which I really agree with is about remainder dumping in Australia. This is when a overseas publisher has excess stock and 'dumps' it cheaply.

That sucks because the problem when you buy a copy from a big chain bookseller who has imported remainders, apparently the author (and local publisher) then get paid nothing.

All depends on the contracts I guess, but the point is,

  1. when you buy something of a cultural nature,
  2. your actually voting with you wallet,
  3. saying I like this artists work,
  4. and thus saying, I'd like to support their efforts.
Obviously it's a donkey vote, if the artist isn't getting paid???

Peter Garrett recently launched a policy about residuals for artists on resale of their work. If that issue with remainders could be addressed in a similar way, we'd be getting somewhere.

It's a nice solution, we don't want to become the publishing wasteland than NZ has become.

Back on the accountants making policy...Is it better to make our artists poorer through cheaper books? Or is it more productive, to make our artists better paid and thus able to produce more content, which thru increased sales would become cheaper?

Alan Fels always cites the music industry as a similar case, but there's one important fact he seems to have ignored:
Most musicians I've met over the years, including quite a few successful ones over, make most of their money by playing gigs, not the scratchings they get from CD sales.
I'd vote for better books myself. There's more to culture than $$$$$..

Disclaimer: I work as a IT Consultant in the publishing industry, these are just my own opinions and musings

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