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Ben McNally rejects CBA on parallel importation reform

As Q&Q reported on Friday, the Canadian Booksellers Association has asked the federal government to loosen the laws that limit imports of foreign books. However, not all independent booksellers agree that repealing the current restrictions on parallel importation would be a good thing. In a letter to Q&Q, veteran Toronto bookseller Ben McNally (of Ben McNally Books) expresses his opposition to such a move. The letter in its entirety appears below.

Dear Friends.

While there certainly is much precedent for the Canadian Booksellers Association to act in a short-sighted and self-defeating fashion, the news that the association has asked the Government of Canada to allow it to bypass Canadian agents and buy directly from the United States really has taken matters too far.

The Canadian book business is small and fragile. The only way it can hope to survive is for all the parties in it to recognize that we are in a partnership, not an antagonistic relationship. Anyone who thinks that the health of the publishing community is not the health of the bookselling community is seriously deluded.

When the dollar unexpectedly strengthened the last time we missed a glorious opportunity to stand together as an industry and explain to the people of Canada what a vital part of its culture we are, and that if we we’re to hope to maintain a publishing industry in this country, higher book prices are not only inevitable but desirable.

This time there is no excuse. If we turn our backs on our partners at this difficult time we will only have ourselves to blame if the Canadian publishing business withers on the vine.

In my opinion this is disgraceful behaviour. This is a selfish and short-sighted attempt to have the cake and eat it, and I am appalled that it has happened without consultation with the publishers, on whom we depend for all facets of our business.

The Canadian Booksellers Association does not speak for me. I have no wish to be a part of this organization.

ben mcnally