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Summary:

Look for e-reader sales to jump in Argentina now that the government has declared paper books a public safety hazard and impounded millions of titles.

Empty shelves
photo: Shutterstock / Smart7

Look for e-reader sales to jump in Argentina now that the government has declared paper books a public safety hazard and impounded millions of titles.

In a plot worthy of a Jorge Borges tale, Argentine authorities are warning that foreign books can poison readers.

“If you put your finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” explained one of the policy supporters to the Wall Street Journal.

To protect the public, the government is seizing foreign books and storing them in a central warehouse. It will not turn them over unless an owner shows up in person and proves that the ink contains less than 0.06 percent lead.

The result is that Amazon orders are going undelivered and, according to the Financial Times, holes are appearing in Argentine bookstores where foreign titles used to sit.

If there’s any bright side to this story, it’s that the Argentine government appears to have jumped through the looking glass for economic reasons and not cultural ones.

According to Rafael Mathus, the New York correspondent for Argentina’s Nacion newspaper, the book ban is part of a misguided import-export strategy.

“It’s a new low for the Argentine government, and the most outrageous initiative of a broad policy aimed to keep afloat the level of reserves, a cushion the government wants to use for its own political benefit. This is the latest and most embarrassing example of that policy.”Readers have so far responded by lambasting the government on Twitter under a “liberen los libros” tag.

And for now all is not lost — the government has so far decided that e-readers are safe to use even if their paper equivalents are not. Argentines who have had their books seized may wish to console themselves by downloading a Kindle copy of Fahrenheit 451.

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  2. Pablo Aslan Monday, April 9, 2012

    This story is false or misleading. It was reported by anti government media, to make the current president look bad.
    It was also retracted and clarified in the Argentine media:
    http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1460714-marcha-atras-con-las-restricciones-al-ingreso-de-libros-importados

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