Sunday, February 15, 2009

A wee lesson in demographics

In the Globe and Mail, Cormorant Books publisher Marc Coté laments the fact that only 20% of books purchased by Canadians are Canadian-authored. He blames this on "colonialism" on the part of the UK and "protectionism" on the part of the US. He says nothing about Franco-Canadians and France, which seems a significant oversight. One can understand how these factors would affect sales of Canadian books outside of Canada, but it's unclear how they are supposed, in Coté's mind, to be hampering domestic sales.

This needs, rather badly, to be put into statistical perspective. The population of Canada is about 33 million. The combined populations of the UK, US, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and France: 465 million. So our population is less than 7% of the grand total of almost 500 million people. Hm, 7% is a lot less than 20%. Interesting. Could it be that, pace persistent nationalist rhetoric, Canadian books actually over-achieve in their domestic sales? Seems like it. Especially when you consider just how many of our people come from other countries and have mother tongues other than English or French. Especially when you consider that the language spoken and read by the majority of Canadians is the world-dominant language.

Coté is right to complain about subsidies not keeping up with inflation. That should be fixed, if it's so. But I wish he wouldn't bemoan the cosmopolitan tastes of Canadian readers. It's a bit ... provincial. I'm gonna go back to reading my Faulkner novel now.

1 comment:

Jennica said...

The minute I saw 20%, I thought the number seemed stand-up-and-cheer high. Can you imagine if 20% of the TV we watched, or the movies we saw, were Canadian?