Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good Intentions Gone Amok

I was soooooooo happy just two short months ago when my middle grade novel, Dragon Wishes, launched. I'd worked so hard, but here it was, out there! Nothing stood in the way of literary success anymore. More book could be read.

Fast forward to February 10, 2009, when the Consumer Product Safety Act goes into effect.

It had blipped across my radar in November when it was passed, but then, I was in the middle of a launch. I knew it was in response to the very real issue of lead in children's toys that we'd seen in the U.S. in the last year. But I didn't think any more of it.

All I thought at the time was, how unlike Congress. Quick action. I thought it might be a good thing, neglecting Thomas Jefferson's remark (I went to UVA, so you kind of breathe in all of the things Thomas Jefferson ever said, thought, did, or even thought about saying or doing) about why Congressional action should take time. He said something to the effect that like one uses a saucer to pour one's tea into to cool, so two houses of government gave feelings and emotions time to cool and good legislation to develop.

There wasn't much cooling on this piece of legislation, and we're now, just a few short weeks away from its going into effect, beginning to feel the backlash of the Act.

The Act is retroactive. And by retroactive, I mean forever retroactive. It affects EVERYTHING that is or has been produced for children 12 and under. And by everything, I mean, toys, games, and books.

Books? Hold on. Are they dangerous? Is my book dangerous?

According to arecent article in Publisher's Weekly, not exactly: "Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, goes further. 'This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,' he said, noting that children’s books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. 'Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.'”


Basically, everything produced for kids has to be tested, including books. Publishers are scrambling. The liablity is enormous. Think of all the books already out there in Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon. They all, theoretically, have to be tested. Every print run. Or returned, whether they are safe or not. Huge losses.

It gets worse. If you knit a pair of booties and sell it to a boutique, they now have to be tested. If you want to sell old car seats to consignment shops, they have to be tested. All of the pastimes that people have used to supplement meager earnings, are now subject to testing.

And by tested, we're talking thousands of dollars. Testing a picture book runs about $3,000.

Huge costs, rises in umemployment, closing businesses aside, here's what really unnerves me. Does this mean they are going to have to take all of the books out of my kids' school library to avoid issues of liability?

What's going on here?

I know Congress meant well, but gees, isn't this going a bit far? Do they know they've gone too far?

I for one am getting out the old American tool used in times of great trial - my voice. I'll be contacting my local state representative to voice my opposition to the law as it stands. We need something for sure, but not something that will put so many good businesses out of business, threatens so many books out there, and ultimately damage our already shaky economy more than it will ever protect our kids.


adrienne said...

Yikes...thanks for posting that. I'm interested in reading more about it.

Barrie said...

What happened to good old common sense? Thanks for this post, Stacy.

PJ Hoover said...

Sounds like our phone conversation last night :)

Stacy Nyikos said...

I wish I could say there is a silver lining in all of this, but if the CDC doesn't rethink it's stance, the publishing industry - already struggling like just about everybody else in the current economy - is going to see a lot of unemployment, as well as shutting of doors. It's unnerving.

Rena said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Stacy. I've been following along with the new law too, as it might put my publisher out of business even before my first book goes to print. I've written some letters and plan to write more. I hope they can change or amend this because it truly is ridiculous!

Kim Kasch said...

OMG: the only ones ending up making money might be the testers...

That's scary.

Vodka Mom said...

what??? That sounds crazy!

Wait, what year is this????

Stacy Nyikos said...

It is totally crazy, and it may put lots of publishers out of business. Testing is insanely expensive, because, you guessed it, the testing centers have a monopoly, and they usually don't have this much business, so there is no price control. It's crazy. I sure hope something happens before Feb 10, or things are going to be very interesting for a very long while.