Surprise! amazon.ca has been on-line for two months and the Canadian book industry hasn't died, and we're still Canadian. Heritage Canada rightly said the Seattle-based amazon.com was out of its reach, but apparently, Canadian book-sellers are unhappy with economic sovereignty.
Domestic book-sellers with stores in every part of Canada claim they can't compete with a faceless, book-selling machine operating from Seattle. Despite the Canadian sellers' superior customer service, huge existing customer base and access to the same book-distribution channels as amazon.ca, our book stores want special treatment through discounted postal rates and tax benefits. They even claim Canada Post is acting unfairly by earning profit (gasp!) through a business subsi-diary that is a part of amazon.ca's supply chain. Somehow, this endangers Canadian identity.
What Canadian retailers neglect to mention is that Indigo and Chapters were irrelevant as on-line retailers long before amazon.ca mounted its affront against Canadian heritage. Even against this amazon.com incarnation, Canadian dealers both in-store and online lacked the selection and availability of Canadian works and were often out-priced by their American counterparts, tax, shipping and duty included.
Maybe the problem here is not one of culture but one of money. Canadian book-sellers want more regulatory and financial hurdles against foreign book businesses in the name of preserving culture and identity.
All this, in addition to existing regulations which preserve Canadian profit--er, culture--by stipulating majority Canadian ownership in businesses selling books in Canada. These regulations are great for those in the business of distributing Canadian wares, but none of these regulations help anyone producing actual Canadian content.
Ignoring for the moment the benefits of bilingual services offered by amazon.ca, Canadian book retailers and publishers have a point about the effects of an efficient on-line book retailer on Canadian culture. If random Joe Canadian can have his book published, printed and distributed by amazon.com and its affiliates, he is able to reach everyone across Canada and the rest of world more effectively than by using our own culture-loving retailers.
That particular freedom must be negative, not because it may hurt Canadian heritage and culture, but because it diminishes Canadian publishers and media's influence and control. What is at stake is not Canadian culture, just the publishers' particular blend of it.
While they continue to rally for inefficiency, I'll just buy Canadian and other content from businesses that can best deliver, both in Canada and abroad. If anything, the retailers bolster our identification with ineffectual whining and surrendering abilities.