Fisher says the initiative is spending taxpayers' money to promote overseas writers. 'If it's being funded by money from the Australia Council, then I'd see it as being something which ought to be encouraging the sales and reading of Australian books,' he says.
'The funding was given first in 2001 as part of the Book Industry Assistance Package to assist the Australian publishing industry. Is France promoting the reading of American books in their country? Is the UK or the US promoting the reading of Australian books in their country?
'The answer in all cases is no.'
Apparently some 30 of the authors promoted in the Books Alive program are Australian, with 20 foreigners, including several who are already selling extremely well (like Singapore Writers Festival guest Alexander McCall Smith).
From an industry perspective I would have to say that book importers and bookshops are important elements in the local ecosystem, and that imported books are crucial to the local literary scene. I don't see a problem in promoting them! But perhaps the choice of foreign writers to promote can be more nuanced.