Clarification of Arts Funding book shipping rates

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Sean in Ottawa
Clarification of Arts Funding book shipping rates


Sean in Ottawa

I am starting a new thread as the old one is closed.

In my previous post on the arts funding I made the point that we do not support books getting to market or being sent as gifts. I realized I should have supplied specific examples because the differences are shocking. Here they are.

1lb book package New York to LA (US domestic example) $2.25
10 lb New York to LA $5.38

1lb Ottawa to Edmonton (lowest slowest) $11.72
10 lb Ottawa to Edmonton $17.96

1 lb Ottawa to New York $7.20
10 lb Ottawa to New York $21.10

1lb Ottawa to LA 7.20
10lb Ottawa to LA 29.52

1lb ANY US address to ANY Canadian address $4.76
10lb as above $23.95.

You see it is more expensive to send a book from Ottawa to Edmonton than from NY to LA by a factor of over 500%.

It is 50% more expensive to send a book to Edmonton from Ottawa than to California.

It costs about 250% of the cost to send a 1 lb book from anywhere in the US to Canada to send it from Ottawa to Edmonton.

Anyone who think the Canadian government efficiently supports Canadian authors and publishing should consider this.

Larger publishers here can get a discount - smaller ones are shut out. The volume needed to get a discount in the US is lower.

Given that writers are paid based on books sold (royalties) this is a killer. Retail prices matter as well when you consider gifts.

The same differential matters when you consider ebay operations-- Canadian home based operations are at a significant disadvantage to American ones.

This also explains why Amazon in the US has an advantage over Canadian book stores especially smaller ones. For Canadian small publishers, this is a program that can only contribute to more ex-publishers and fewer really in-business ones. It will encourage the ones who are in business to go for the grants (in spite of any censorship from Ottawa) as the market is removed from them effectively.

Okay, this was my life for 14 years-- yeah I'm still bitter whenever I hear about Canada's support for the arts-- and we won't even get started with the who-you-know-helps angle. In too many programs that is a factor.

The fact that Canadians have produced so much wonderful material in all art forms is a testament to talent, effort and sweat not so much the cumulative effect of government policies. This is just one of many examples.

Put bluntly the programs that work here are in large part make up for the bone headed policies that don't so when we take unique programs like those that have just been canceled and kill them we leave our creative people more and more at a disadvantage as all other things are definitely not equal.

With the access to market channels for artists choked off in Canada the practice of censorship in compensating supports is all the more dangerous as in this country we are more reliant on them than most given other government policies like shipping rates.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

That's a great point, Sean. Do you suggest government subsidies for mailing books? Books used to be free of sales tax, pre-GST. I'm not sure if that's still the case.

Sean in Ottawa

This gap in prices is not a result of government subsidies on the US side-- the US postal Service is a private corporation. The government asked for this consideration-- and the post office agreed to it. In fact there is not much cost to it as books also can represent a volume of business that is lost when the prices are prohibitive. It is good business for the postal service to offer a book rate.

The difference is really gouging by Canada Post in order to gain volume through sending mass admail below cost.

That said I do believe as I said in the last thread that we need to support both non-commercially viable art and assist commercially viable art. A book rate is a very good way to do it-- it is also less costly than many direct grant options and not prone to censorship, government interference in publishing program choices, favoritism or outright nepotism. A book rate is remarkably efficient in that the government would only have to subsidize the actual cost (a lot lower than the Canada post rates) in order to support and facilitate a sale worth many times that. This sale not only supports the publisher but also the author. There does not need to be any bureaucracy-- book rates should be over-the-counter rates as they are in the US and other countries so the public can also buy a book in a bookstore and send it as a gift.

Visual artists can be supported by the maintenance of massive art directory websites showing their art and whatever buying contact information. A single website to go to for all artists ranked by name would be very helpful-- each artist would upload their pictures and the name of their agent, gallery or contact information using online forms. Moderation and maintenance would be limited and easy. Work would have to be juried to make sure that only professional work would go up but this is less investment than direct grants and also would be effective in that some artists would make much more off this program than any direct poverty-level grants (this would not entirely replace direct grants as some art and artists are not commercially viable and will need direct grants to create but for many painters for example this would be better than most other programs). The program would need to have an advertising campaign to businesses who may purchase art and the public.

Just a couple examples-- we can do much better in facilitating artist sales than we have.

Sean in Ottawa

Oh sorry-- to answer your question-- books are taxed by the GST -- a real nightmare when it was introduced especially given that they are sold on a returnable basis. They are not taxed provincially in Ontario and some other provinces but they are in Atlantic Canada.

Basically we had one universal program when I started publishing -- the book rate and when I finally finished it was the GST.... Grrrr