Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Parallel import of books causes dicks to shrink part 2

Kapil Sibal promised to look again at permitting parallel import of books after the National Council of Applied Econ Research had compiled a report. I am appalled that my expert testimony has not been sought by that august body. As I argued in my highly influential, if entirely unread, blogpost on the subject a couple of years ago, Parallel imports of books can cause Publishing dicks to shrink. This is because if parallel importation is allowed then Indian publishing becomes entrepreneurial. You keep track of what foreign books are trending and quickly secure the Indian publishing rights and arrange marketing for your print run. The first buyers of the foreign book are doing your work for you in terms of market testing the product. The online retailer, itself, may act as the Publisher. What is the result? Quicker turn around time, topical and trending publishing, end to price discrimination by time segmentation (i.e. gap between hardback and paper back) which is totally mad in a knowledge based Economy where the youngest and most dynamic players (i.e. the readers who get highest marginal utility and have highest positive externality) are also the cash-poorest.
Actually, since India is a big place you can have a lot of price discrimination on the basis of 'local monopoly'- the p.o.d operation near campus can sell at a different price from the bazaar- or 'customization & value added' (student's edition/ middle aged Uncle's edition with all the dirty bits highlighted in extra large font/ hipster edition optimized for being read while wearing Rayban sunglasses/ Rahul Gandhi coloring book edition/ Shiv Sena coloring book edition (saffron print on saffron paper) etc etc.
Moreover, as Thomas Abraham pointed out, parallel importation will destroy Indian Publishing of Indian writing in English- surely a good thing- because it faces an extreme Keynesian Beauty Contest type problem- viz. one of systematically underestimating the backwardness and grossness of the taste of the reading public- which is compounded by the jhollawallah mentality of Publishing dicks.
Indian publishers refused to touch Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses'. The Govt. banned its import under a section of the Law on bringing in noxious products into the country. When have Indian publishers ever published anything half-way decent? Parallel import as enabling entrepreneurial publishing, including Epublishing, based on customization and local value added is the way to go.
I suppose snooty publishers and high end Booker prize winning authors might turn up their noses at popular editions which provide a glossary of difficult English words translated into the local language as well as footnotes explaining things unfamiliar to young people from ordinary backgrounds. To be honest, I myself would find such editions useful so as to get a handle on the pornographic sub-text in Amartya Sen's recent work.I should explain, back when I was young, Economists used Indifference Curves, rather than algebraic topology, to give a salacious edge to their essays and drive young students into frenzies of self-abuse. This was a good thing as it caused us to get married at a reasonable age. Look at Rahul Baba- whom Sen declares a genius- 42 years old and still unmarried! Fault is entirely that of this new type of Economics which is based on equations rather than sexy curves to which no red blooded young man can remain indifferent.
In conclusion- bad Economics is behind the complaint that parallel importation of books causes dicks to shrink. Good Economics, with plenty of indifference curves, causes dicks to expand. Mind it kindly.

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