The Power of Readers!
The book industry news continues to haunt us. Right on the heels of the Key Porter closure, the downsizing in the sales department by Random House Canada, and more independent bookstores deciding to give up the good fight, comes an article in Brantford Expositor stating that "the Canadian publishing industry deserves a leg up", especially when it comes to retaining regulations against foreign investment. This is currently under review by Heritage Canada and would be a major blow to the industry if it is changed or worse yet, abandoned.
They're damned right!
Canadians need many voices telling the Canadian story. And this can only be done through Canadian publishers. It's that simple. Or maybe, that complex. There are many issues at play here. But it all boils down to money, doesn't it? Canada is a country of fewer numbers than the U.S., and that of course means fewer readers, fewer book buyers. The Canadian publishing industry faces similar costs in the production of its books and probably higher distribution prices. It's a combination that results in the constant struggle On top of this, to allow the foreign investment balance to change would be a blow to many more small publishers.
We have a Canadian Booksellers Association and a Canadian Publisher's Association working hard to keep the industry vital. Perhaps what we need is a Canadian Reader's Association!
This group would lobby government on behalf of publishers for a more reasonable share of funding; would lobby publishers to broaden the number of Canadian authors on their lists (I'm talking quality writing here, not a numbers game); support booksellers of the brick and mortar variety in their attempts to provide events and author opportunities; and, equally important, lobby other readers as to the value of reading genre fiction. We have tons of book clubs in Ottawa and I'm sure each city can make the same boast. They would be a good base for this new Association.
We have some amazing Canadian mystery and crime writers who might possibly hit the bestseller lists if more readers overcame their ill-founded disdain of genre fiction and of Canadian writing in general.
You all know this -- you're already spreading the word. But perhaps a Canadian Readers Association could take it further. What do you think?
Linda Wiken/Erika Chase