If you produce books for children under the age of twelve, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) just became your #1 headache.
I first heard about the CPSIA in 2009, when a panicked member of the Self-Publishers Discussion Group wrote to alert everyone that the sky was falling on children’s books (and children’s products, too). It was very hard in the early days to parse what was happening. At first it didn’t seem to have anything to do with books. But as things evolved in the next few months the director of the CPSIA made very clear that books, in fact, were covered—all books, both text and full-color, for children under the age of twelve. My response was simply to stop dealing with children’s books (we distribute books, and a few are aimed at children. Those titles published before 2008 are not forced to comply).
But you know how it is—someone published a fabulous kid’s book, and I just had to work with them. Since the publisher contacted me after he’d sent the files to the printer, based on my recommendation, he had to halt the print run until he could become CPSIA compliant. I thought I’d share with you what I know, since the printer and print broker didn’t understand what is currently required (and he’s not the first print broker I’ve met who is in the dark).
Let me say two things: 1) I am not an advocate for this law. I’m just trying to help publishers parse it. Don’t think for a minute I am defending this ridiculous law. 2) I am not the CPSIA oracle. I don’t know everything. This is what I believe you must do based on what I’ve read. If you know better than I, please write and correct me. I’ll get the info out ASAP.
Technically: The rules are supposedly in abeyance for books until December 2011.
Reality: No wholesaler will take a new children’s book without CPSIA certification right now. And that makes sense, since a book being sold now is likely to be sold after December, when it would suddenly need to be CPSIA compliant. The law went into effect August 2009, but no one seems to have gotten serious about it until recently.
There are three things you must have to be in compliance with CPSIA:
A Laboratory Test of the ink, paper, glue and cardboard of the book. Yes, this is not cheap. I’m hearing price quotes of between $600 and $2200. Here is a list of labs not only in the U.S., but in China, Canada, India and many other locales. The lab must generate a report declaring that the book’s lead content does not exceed 300 ppm (parts per million); the report can be in English and any other language, or just English.
You do not have to test for phthalates if the book has no plastic on it—which most books don’t. An example of a book that would have to be tested for this chemical is an in-bath play book (which is plastic for obvious reasons).
A Certificate of Compliance must be created by the importer or printer of the book. Here is a sample of the certificate. So far as I can ascertain, the relevant citation of the CPSIA asked for in Question #2 is “Section 101,” which covers lead testing of children’s products.
I am not an advocate for this law. I’m just trying to help publishers parse it. Don’t think for a minute I am defending this ridiculous law.”
On the Copyright Page, instead of just putting “Printed in China” or whatever, you must put
1) the name of the printer
2) the city and country of the printer
3) the “batch number” I interpret this to mean the job or work order number (all printers assign numbers to a print run).
You will need to provide the Lab results and Certificate of Compliance to your distributor (if you use one) and any wholesaler. You may want to keep PDF copies on your website for those who might want to make sure you are certified CPSIA, like bookstores or really, really overprotective parents.
I am currently surveying librarians and booksellers to see if any are actually aware of the CPSIA regulations. I’ll update this when I’ve talked to a few retailers.
Publishers contemplating printing a children’s book should put in their RFQ (request for quote) that the book has to be tested to be CPSIA compliant. While testing should be the printer’s concern, my guess will be that they’ll push this onto publishers as long as they can get away with it. Your best bet is to negotiate the price of the lab test upfront.
The Association of American Publishers is trying to get Congress involved with amending this law so that it only covers books with trinkets on it, not regular books. (Thanks to Pete Masterson of Aeonix Publishing Group for pointing this out.) I think the likelihood of Congress acting on this before it goes into effect are slim and none.
I have talked to a representative of Lightning Source International. In March 2011, they put out a letter to publishers saying that they are in compliance with CPSIA and have lab results on file. Since they are owned by Ingram, the largest wholesaer (who is demanding a letter of compliance), that would seem to be all that is needed.
This is a big difference between what the overseas printers are doing – which is charging individual publishers for each book. I think some sort of mass action is needed here to convince overseas printers to follow LSI’s lead (if you’ll pardon the pun).