Book 'em Dan-o
By Joshua Budd
Canadian campus booksellers fear a new bill currently under debate in the House of Commons will lead to lower accessibility and higher prices for textbooks.
Ron Johnson, senior vice-president of the Canadian Booksellers Association, said Bill C-32 contains a provision which forbids the importation of new and used scholarly books for use in schools and universities.
The provision stipulates booksellers must buy books from Canadian distributors or first receive permission from them to buy books outside the country.
Johnson said used bookstores will suffer the most under the proposed legislation since distributors of used books do not exist in Canada.
"The wording of the amendment is just not realistic," Johnson said. "The government has to create the infrastructure to distribute used books within Canada before they can restrict distribution to Canada."
He added the import restrictions will give Canadian distributors of new books the freedom to raise prices significantly higher than their American competitors.
Donn Ekdahl, director of the UWO Bookstore, said there was no consultation with booksellers prior to the bill's proposal. It came as a complete surprise.
The legislation is going to end up costing students money and create further delays in ordering books, he said.
"Quite often enrolment will change or faculty will order their books late," Ekdahl said. "You need maximum accessibility to be ready for September."
Ekdahl said there is an agreement between the university and the University Students' Council which prohibits the bookstore from buying and reselling books from students.
Because of the agreement, Ekdaht said he has no alternative other than to buy used books from American distributors and a few from other universities in Canada.
Jackie Hushion, executive director for the Canadian publishers council, a lobby group backing Bill C-32, said the amendment forbids booksellers to import textbooks only if the books have an exclusive agent in Canada.
She added the bill will set a limit on the days distributors have to provide books to the retailers, although no specific limit has been decided yet. After the time limit is up retailers will be permitted to go outside the country to buy their books.
However, she is aware the bill lacks a mechanism to create a distribution system for used books in Canada and added the bill was not intended to eliminate the sale of used books in this country.
"We are prepared to talk about ensuring accessibility for used books," Hushion said. She also said the legislation will not lead to an increase in the price of used or new books.
"Our members would be supportive of any move to ensure the price of used books will not become expensive," Hushion said.
Susan Christensen, coordinator for the USC's used bookstore, said she was not aware of the bill until today, however, she does not expect it will create any problems for the store.
Christensen said all the books are on consignment from students. If they are sold the store keeps 17 per cent and books not sold are returned to students in March or November.