Despite the rise of Canadian literature in recent decades, Canada remains a place where by far most of the books read are of foreign origin. The causes of this predominance can be traced deep into the past—to the country’s colonial evolution, to the long unyielding protectionism of American copyright law, and to Quebec’s desire to shore up a French identity. Nationalist policies have recently intervened to promote the original publishing of general literature in Canada, making a noticeable impact from about 1920 in Quebec and about 1960 in English Canada. These policies have not been symmetrical: whereas Quebec has implemented a law requiring libraries to buy from local booksellers, the rest of Canada has largely contented itself with granting programs for publishers. The result is that Quebec has achieved broad stability for the spectrum of roles involved in the production of local literature and approached parity in the sale of local and foreign publications in the provincial market. In English Canada, by contrast, independent bookselling is in plain crisis, and as this crucial link to Canadian readers deteriorates, local publishing grows increasingly dependent on government grants.
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