A River Runs Over It

Canadian Bookseller Association members are invited to participate in a conference call October 1 to shape the group’s feedback to the Department of Canadian Heritage about foreign-owned competition.

A discussion paper by Canadian Heritage, “Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution” summarizing industry issues is here. Though low-key in tone, the controversial parts aren’t hard to find – just look for paragraphs containing the word “Amazon.”

Concerns were also expressed that a relaxation of the foreign investment policy for retail would have negative impacts on the independent bookselling community, and that changes to technology and its impact upon trading relationships have exposed loopholes in the policy (referring specifically to the case of the establishment of the Amazon.ca Web site in 2002).

Those on the call are expected to discuss: Are Canadian-owned businesses more inclined to support the creation, distribution, and/or sale of books by Canadian authors? Does the presence of foreign companies in the book industry currently benefit Canadians and the Canadian book industry? Are there particular types of businesses within the publishing, distribution or retail sectors of the book industry (e.g. educational publishing or online retail) that require distinct treatment under the policy?

See the full list of questions under consideration following the jump.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

The questions under consideration are:

Options

1.       Part VII of the discussion paper presents options regarding the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution. Which options, in your view, would be the most beneficial? Please explain your choice.

Foreign ownership

2.       Are Canadian-owned businesses more inclined to support the creation, distribution, and/or sale of books by Canadian authors? Why or why not?

3.       Does the presence of foreign companies in the book industry currently benefit Canadians and the Canadian book industry? Please explain your view.

4.       What would be the impact, either positive or negative, for Canadians, authors, and the book industry, of opening the market to foreign firms not already operating in Canada? Please explain in the context of:  a.  book publishing; b. book distribution; c. book retail.

5.       Are there particular types of businesses within the publishing, distribution or retail sectors of the book industry (e.g. educational publishing or online retail) that require distinct treatment under the policy?

6.       Foreign investment policies exist for the periodical publishing and film distribution industries, as well as for the book industry. Do these existing policies suggest models that could be beneficial to Canadians and to the book industry?

Book industry transformation

7.       Are there any new or emerging issues in the book industry, including those mentioned in this discussion paper, that are not sufficiently addressed by the current policy? If so, how should a modernized policy respond to these?

8.       The existing policy specifies the kinds of net benefit undertakings that may be sought from foreign investors in cases of indirect acquisitions, such as commitments to promote Canadian authors; to support the infrastructure of the book distribution system; to improve access to the company’s Canadian marketing and distribution infrastructure; and to engage in education and research. Are there ways in which these undertakings should be modernized to better reflect the current book industry environment?

Investor undertakings

9.       What types of commitments, including those mentioned in this discussion paper, do you think have been/would be the most beneficial to Canada and the Canadian book industry? What are the impacts of investor commitments related to the marketing of Canadian books, retention of Canadian staff, and sponsorship of industry initiatives and events? Is it beneficial to the Canadian book industry and to Canadians to require that investors commit either to expanding or restricting the scope of their businesses? If so, under what circumstances?

Official languages

10.   Are there any ways in which foreign investment in the book industry, or changes to the foreign investment policy, might have a particular impact on publishers, distributors or retailers who either work with official language communities in minority situations or are members of these communities? Please explain.