Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't let your kids lick their books

Don't let your kids lick their books.
Or even touch them if the books are printed in China.

Among the huge Mattel toy recalls recently are the SpongeBob Square Pants journals. These may be the ones I saw mentioned on television that had spiral bindings coated with lead paint.

But what about all children's books printed in China? If the Chinese contractors and subcontractors are using lead in paint products to save money, are Chinese printers using cheaper printing inks with lead in them to print the huge amount of children's books printed in China for household name American book publishers?

I've been thinking more about this lately as I'm due to be a first-time grandfather in March 2008. When at a bookstore to buy books for children, parents and grandparents should examine each book's copyright page or back cover. If you read "Printed in China," put it back. Especially if it has a spiral binding. Then wash your hands.

Many years ago, for an American book to be eligible to be copyrighted in this country, it had to be printed in the USA. It costs publishers more to print their books, especially full color children's books, in this country than overseas. That is why American book publishers outsource to China. When we published The Macaroon Moon: A Book of Poems and Rhymes for Children in 2004 (ISBN: 978-0-913337-51-6), competing bids from a printer with plants in both New Jersey and China showed that we could print the book in China for $3,700 less than in New Jersey. We still chose the New Jersey plant.

The following statement appears on The Macaroon Moon's copyright page:

"Printed in the United States of America by American Printing craftsmen and craftswomen, as per the policy of Southfarm Press, Publisher to support American vendors and workers."

Considering the risks of outsourcing the manufacture of toys and books overseas, especially China, don't you wish that statement appeared in all children's books manufactured for American children?--Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

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