Good news! Restrictions on books entering the country from abroad have been lifted, meaning you can now order books off Amazon and actually receive them once they arrive to these hallowed shores.
Culture Minister Pablo Avelluto and Production Minister Francisco Cabrera made the announcement yesterday afternoon, explaining that after four years of restrictive measures, the new policy seeks to “broaden bibliodiversity” (yes, that’s a word, meaning cultural pluralism in writing and publishing) and lift the spirits of depressed Amazon junkies.
Um. Why is this a big deal?
Basically, if you tried to buy a book online from abroad before today, the pain went further than waiting several days for it to arrive — if it arrived at all. Even then, you had to go all the way to Customs or Ezeiza (yes, the international airport in Far Far Away) in order to maybe, hopefully, pick up your package after standing line for a small eternity and arguing with every official/most people around you.
It’s a big deal because we don’t have to do that anymore.
According to Cabrera, lifting the restrictions are meant to “favor Argentine readers’ freedom of choice,” as well as “ease the exchange between the local editorial industry with the international market.”
“New resources and the industry will be modernized in order to provide a competitive service,” he added. The measure will supposedly also “strengthen the country’s cultural ties with the region and the world.”
Why were books from abroad restricted in the first place?
It’s not like they were branded with the word “FOREIGN” and banned from entering the country. In 2012, Secretary of Domestic Trade Guillermo Moreno applied restrictions on importing books published abroad under a previous Resolution 453/10, an environmental measure that prevented products with ink containing lead content from entering the country. However, as the new Resolution 01/2016 indicates, that resolution exempted “books, newspapers, magazines with weekly or monthly editions.” So Macri’s government has decided that it is no longer necessary to apply said restrictions because those products were not supposed to go through that process anyway.
“The countries from which we import books do not use lead in their publications,” Avelluto added.
Since the resolution was also published around the time of the cepo (restrictions on the dollar exchange rate), the current government claims it was “a consequence of the application of the cepo to prevent dollars from leaving the country.”
So… I can buy books now?
Yes. Amazing, right?
Wait, do they come to my door??
That’s the idea!
Back in 2012, when the restrictions came into place, the hashtag #Liberenloslibros (“free the books”) went viral on social media in protest. Tomorrow, the Culture Ministry will launch the #LibrosLibres (“free books”) hashtag to answer public opinion questions, so we’ll have more details on practicalities as of tomorrow.
Will buying foreign books here be cheaper now?
Probably, yes. Given that the bureaucratic obstacles that applied to bringing in books from abroad also applied to bookstores and importers, the books themselves became much more expensive. Now, as Avelluto explained, “Argentine readers will have access to the biggest supply possible.”
So rejoice! Should you order a book from abroad, you no longer need to go to Customs or travel all the way to Ezeiza to get your online purchase.
Although if you’re living here, you might as well try reading in Spanish as well. Just saying.