I've been reading a lot around the change to parallel importation legislation and I've been following a lot of the debate on radio, TV and on the net. I have also written to my local and national representatives in parliament - I sent out 10 or 11 letters voicing my protest to the change last week.
I was just reading this link here,
a piece by Richard Flannigan in the SMH via cassiphone
and something that I hadn't fully processed hit me. I mean, I understand the argument in terms of the writers and in terms of the publishers but I don't think I'd fully thought it through from the independent booksellers aspect.
Over the last 3 weeks, I've been creating a list of independent booksellers across Australia for approaching to stock Twelfth Planet Press books. And in the process I've visited a lot of websites to get contact information and establish the type of bookstore and I've ended up with a personal list of bookstores I am looking forward to visiting in various cities when next I am travelling. Because I like bookstores. Good bookstores are places I love to hang out. And the longer I hang out in a bookstore, the more books I tend to find that I need to buy. The other thing I love about bookstores is that they tend to be staffed by people who also love books, who read them and are able to recommend books for me or locate and order books I want.
None of these things can be found in the big chain bookstores. Some of the big chains have bright fluorescent lighting that make looking at book covers painful due to glare. They the stock their books by publisher not by writer or genre which makes finding books I am looking for too hard. And they tend to have a lot of How To, Cookbook and big seller books and not so much the quirky, genre or offbeat books that I kinda like to read. I'll never forget the time I went up to the counter in a large bookchain bookstore and asked them where they stocked their Salman Rushdie books as they didn't seem to have a classics section or even a literary section. I got a blank look from the teenager behind the counter who then asked, "Who?"
It suddenly occurred to me that if independent bookstores get moved out of the market due to this change, not only will I as an independent publisher lose the only support I currently have for selling my books, but I as a consumer will lose something that I highly value. And that makes me very sad.
It also means that likely, as a consumer, whilst I might buy the big selling books from the big chains - like whatever the next Harry Potter phenomenon is - my book consuming will likely go offshore to places like Amazon and to other independent bookstores and publishers. In other words, the money I spend on books will likely go offshore.