In the era of the Kindle, the Kobo, and the smash vampire serial, do Canadian writers and publishers still stand a chance? If they have access to capital, then yes: They can continue to soar.
But first, take down the walls. With an absurd threshold of $5-million in gross assets for a government review of an acquisition, the Investment Canada Act dissuades foreign investment in almost any cultural business. At the same time, the foreign presence of Canadian publishing is a long-standing fact: Major publishers such as Random House, HarperCollins and Penguin, grandfathered thanks to older rules, have shown their eagerness to publish excellent Canadian writing - work by Irshad Manji, Annabel Lyon and Damian Tarnopolsky - just as the British firms Macmillan and Oxford Press did in the 1950s and 1960s.
So why not allow more foreign ownership? Even in Quebec, home to a robust domestic publishing industry, European Union trade negotiators (no strangers to cultural protectionism) are seeking a foothold.
At the same time, our farm system of smaller Canadian publishers and emerging writers needs more support, so that the next Margaret Atwood or Michael Ondaatje can be introduced to the world stage. With four of five recent Giller nominees coming from the small presses, the talent, and the ability to scout for it, are there. Canada Council grants now just need to keep pace, for with every passing year, the career of writing is marked more by poverty than by multi-million-dollar payouts.
Heritage Minister James Moore has an opportunity, in announcing the results of his review of Canada's foreign investment rules in the book industry, to make these two simple reforms, and put great Canadian writing at the fore.