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Friday, February 15, 2013

Libraries Are WHAT?

This morning, when I curled up in bed with my trusty iPad, I found this link to the Guardian, paced on Twitter by Neil Gaiman. In it, there's a report about the author of a series of children's books, some of which I bought for my school library on request by kids last year. Apparently, he thinks that "libraries have had their day" because he, a writer who not only is able to live off his earnings, but live off them in a way the rest of us can only dream about, is not getting enough money from PLR, or Public Lending Right. He seems to think that if there were no libraries everyone would BUY his books instead of borrowing them. Really? A bit like saying,"If there were no second hand cars or cars for rent, everyone would buy new ones." And if that's a weird comparison, check out the article, because he uses it in his argument. What next, make it illegal to lend books to your friends? (Well, there are problems about lending ebooks, I admit. But libraries have ebooks now and they often have to pay again after a number of loans)

If he was talking about piracy I'd be right with him, likewise if it was a matter of those of my librarian colleagues who think that "information should be free" no matter how much work a writer has put into their books or articles - after all, writers have to pay bills too, and unless you're self published, so do the businesses that publish books.

In many cases, a library is where you go to sample and find writers you might never have discovered otherwise - you might buy the next book, if you have the money; if you don't, you aren't going to buy them anyway, but you might ask the library to get in the next book in that series.

And librarians promote reading and writers and they invite writers to speak, gaining them more income and promotion.  PLR was never - in my country at least - designed for the lucky few who can live off their writing, though it's no doubt nice to get the extra money. It works well for those whose books have perhaps gone out of print, and compensation for the fact that they might have sold more otherwise. I actually get more from lending rights than I do from royalties, especially in a year when I haven't sold much. It gives me the time to write more and sell more.

I won't be buying any more of this gentleman's books for my library, seeing he thinks we should all close down, unless kids demand more. But so far this year, I haven't had any more demand or even borrowing of the ones we have.

Too bad his attitude doesn't match the quality of his writing.


Lan said...

It's really disappointing that some writers view libraries that way. Thankfully he's probably only part of a select few who do. I've discovered many books I enjoy through the library. As you said, I'm a thrifty reader who only buys books that I'm sure I already like. If my local library is anything to go by, I don't think they're goof anywhere.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I believe he's in a minority. Many others have been protesting in England over the closing down of libraries - hundreds of them!