Saturday, 25 April 2009

parallel importing

This article, while possibly spending slightly more time on chooks and utes than is strictly proportional in the overall issue, sums up quite well what's going on in the Aussie book industry right now.

I don't do well at explaining this whole thing, which is one reason I haven’t touched it here, but the Guardian nutshells it neatly. The other reason I haven’t written about it is that every time I get into it I lose any articulate expression all that education carefully engendered in me, and start going “No. Just no. Because no. Because. No.”

So instead, you can find many thousands of spectacularly well-chosen words on this issue right here. Start with this (ignore what he says about booksellers. He doesn't mean all of us, and you can find submissions from indies too - for example, and some figures). See this. And then, this, especially because it addresses the allegation of protectionism. This, too, because it also addresses figures, or the lack of them. It’s livelihoods, and industryhoods, and culturehoods.

If nothing else, if you’ve read the US version of Don’t Call Me Ishmael you will know how maddening a North Americanisation of a novel can get. Reading it over here is bad enough. Reading this version in Australia would make me want to weep. And break something.

(This is a different-but-related thing, but I loathe that Americanisation suggests North Americans can’t access a novel unless it’s written for them, with cultural and linguistic references of anywhere else removed or changed. It’s insulting. Canadian friends, if I were you I would be spectacularly pissed off with the implication I couldn't interpret what a ute is from the fact that someone’s driving it. In DCMIshmael, the big debate was over ‘dag’. There isn’t really an equivalent over here. But I'm guessing you could probably have got it from the context.

Finally, and what I think is more worrying, is that a generation of American kids could grow up thinking the world is really like that – a) completely tailored to them and b) all the same. An American kid reading DCMIshmael would have to surmise that Australian high schools have a thriving American football culture. American kids aren’t stupid. But if they’re not given the chance to be informed, well, could you blame them if they were to grow up being bemused every time everyone isn't just like them?)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your point about the North Americanisation (or should I say Americanization) of books relates to some recent discusssions I have been involved in on the globalis/zation of English - i.e. should there be one standard of English for use as an international language?

One chap/bloke/guy thinks he has cracked it: Jean-Paul Nerrière (Hmm, Obama's speech is one thing, I wouldn't want to see my favourite reads subjected to such editing!)

Brings up some good material for debate, mind...