Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fighting Economic Bad Times: Give a Ticket, Buy a Book, Promote Infrastructure Projects

"Recession? What recession?" was the headline on a story in Quill and Quire’s online edition Tuesday. Canada’s publishing industry magazine reports that independent book stores seem to be doing pretty well so far, thank you very much, despite the terrible economic news. That could be because bad news has led to poor expectations or because last year—when the Canadian dollar was near par with the US dollar but book prices hadn’t caught up—was quite a bad year and any up tick looks good, Q&Q says.

The last couple of days I’ve spent some time in bookstores, shopping for friends and family. At the excellent children’s book store Babar en ville, staff said that things going well, more or less to their surprise. Chapters in downtown Montreal was packed when I was through in mid-afternoon yesterday as was nearby Paragraphe books. And at Drawn and Quarterly, the eclectic store run by the even more eclectic publishing house, there was a line of young people at the cash, waiting to be served.

Books make great gifts. They last a long time, they can be found in all price-ranges, and are suitable for all tastes and age groups. Tickets to events are more transitory as gifts, but the memories of good dance, music or theatre performances can last forever

And books written and published close to home, as well as tickets to local performances are just what the doctor ordered when it comes to economic stimulus. The money goes into the pockets of nearby producers and creators, rather than into coffers of companies far away. Money that goes around near you comes around near you too.

That’s part of the reason why any governmental stimulus package should include projects close to home, particularly infrastructure undertakings. A tax cut won’t help much, as The Globe and Mail eloquently argued on Monday. “People Can’t Be Bribed into Spending.”

Further note on the problems of depending too much on corporate and private sector sponsors: the Montreal International Jazz Festival is bracing for tougher times as GM announces it will pull out of sponsorship after next June’s 30th anniversary celebration. Who’s going to step up to the bat on this one?

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