The Great Book Blockade of 2009
May 15, 2009 2:54 AM Subscribe
posted by drea (22 comments total)
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University of Iowa Creative Writing professor Robin Hemley
on Guggenheim Fellowship in the Philippines first broke the news through a McSweeney's dispatch
that the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines has begun to tax imported books, in direct violation of the Florence agreement. Concerned netizens rally against the government by spreading the news
, causing #bookblockade
to get trended on twitter. Neil Gaiman's tweet
and more updates
. An update from Robin Hemley.
Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.
"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.
I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.
Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.
"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.
"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.
If you want to help: please write Unesco
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