Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant
Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant

Sunday, May 23, 2004

New directions for Canadian nationalism: Technology Trumps Icons II

While there are many reasons to be proud to be a Canadian, I have long felt that Canadians with a strong "nationalist" sentiment have had their hearts misplaced when it comes to supporting national institutions. This past week three events in Canada have demonstrated that technology, and specifically Internet technology, will trump misplaced nationalism every time. This is the second in a series of three postings bringing awareness of the changes that are coming.

eCommerce: Two years ago Amazon launched an operation targeted at the Canadian market (note I did not say "a Canadian business in the traditional sense"). Canadian booksellers ranted and, in their emotional fury, came together to launch a lawsuit. It was especially galling since the Seattle-based "operation" had cleared their intent with Heritage Canada to ensure they were on the legal side of Canadian bookseller law and contracted a Canadian Crown Corporation, Canada Post, to distribute product. But they did not set up any employees in Canada nor open any physical office. The entire operation is run out of Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. There is lots of history of non-Canadian businesses setting up Canadian-based logistics contractors to handle delivery to Canadian addresses; this came in very handy recently when I had to order a new backup battery for my PC's power backup device -- got it the day after placing the order from a warehouse based in Mississauga.

I was pleased to see arrive as often had books which could not be found in Canada or had unrealistic delivery times. Like many others, I would pay the premium on delivery charges just to have the relevant book in a timely manner. Finally the delivery and customs issues associated with ordering from were being addressed. Internet technology had once again eliminated business limitations imposed by geographical boundaries.

Yesterday, in a single article in the National Post, it came out in the news that the Canadian booksellers had dropped their lawsuit. (Note - this link may require a paid registration; when the story appears elsewhere I will fix this.) Why? Aside from the legal costs, it was becoming apparent that Canadian authors were starting to get much wider distribution of their works through Amazon's worldwide operations ... low cost distribution well beyond Canadian boundaries. The Canadian publishers and distributors of these books did not want to lose their newfound business.

As an aside. according to the same article, it seems that Chapters/Indigo is doing just fine, thank you, in both their physical bookstores as well as their online business. brought the competition necessary to trigger Chapters/Indigo to become a more effective physical and online bookselling operation.

I have often felt that our restrictive Canadian cultural policies have done more to hinder the spread of Canadian culture than to encourage it. Sure, we have the rare breakthrough with a Shania Twain or Celine Dion but what about all those other Canadians who would love to share their talents with others around the world. When are we going to be able to see CBC (and/or CTV and/or Global, etc.) on satellite channels in the U.S. or elsewhere? Promote and Sell Canada! Maybe Heritage Canada should be focusing on the external promotion of Canadian culture instead of how to restrict Canadians' access to various cultures emanating from around the world.

Oh, and as a more appropriate outlet for showing your Canadian nationalism, support our Olympic athletes in Athens this summer!

May 31 Update: It is interesting to note that the dropping of the lawsuit story only appeared once in the National Post; there is no press release at the Canadian Booksellers Association website and the only follow up story appeared last Thursday in the Toronto Star. Seems like the failure of Canadian policy is not something that sells newspapers. At the same time I find several Canadian news channels are relying on for tracking BestSeller lists.

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