The stay of enforcement on testing and certification under the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), announced January 30, gives publishers until February 10, 2010, to make sure they have adequate systems in place to provide the required paperwork to give to vendors and others, although their books still need to have lead levels that comply with the act's safety provisions. But for now, publishers are shipping children's books, retailers are selling them, children are reading them in schools and libraries, and the panic level is down. The stay, however, doesn't resolve key questions about the act:

Will books be exempt? The industry is lobbying for ink-on-paper books to remain unregulated. The Association of American Publishers has been meeting with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to provide the information it needs to make a determination. An exemption would be the best-case scenario and render the other concerns largely moot.What are the testing protocols? Publishers, printers and importers need clarification on allowable test procedures. The act requires every SKU of finished product to be tested, ultimately by a third-party lab—a prohibitively expensive process—but publishers argue that if inks, paper and adhesives are certified safe individually, the book is safe.What about older books? The Act currently applies to every book, no matter how old. Testing books already on shelves or in warehouses is costly and impractical, and publishers, stores, schools and libraries could end up destroying untested holdings. The commission has indicated it may issue separate guidance for schools and libraries.

These questions can be answered either through interpretation by the CPSC, or through reform of the act by Congress. Many executives believe no substantive CPSC actions are likely until President Obama nominates a candidate for the unfilled third spot on the commission, who will become chair. As for Congress, Sen. Jim DeMint introduced a CPSIA reform bill last Thursday, but it is unclear how much suppost it will receive from the Senate and House members who head the relevant committees.

“We're optimistic that before the stay is over, we'll have a permanent fix,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association's Washington office.