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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Children's Book Author Says Libraries Are Stealing His Money

Posted by on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Techdirt wants you to know that British author Terry Deary, who writes the Horrible Histories series of books for children, has a bone to pick with libraries.

I'm not attacking libraries, I'm attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant...[I]t's been 150 years, we've got this idea that we've got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.

Deary does go on, saying that "People will happily buy a cinema ticket to see Roald Dahl's Matilda, and expect to get the book for free," and concluding that "Books aren't public property." Frankly, I'm astonished that I don't come across this line of thinking from authors more often. I would've thought for sure that by now Tom Clancy or some other American conservative novelist would be railing against libraries as basically a federally funded torrent site.

There's so much more of Deary's rant over at Techdirt, including the incredible allegation that the car industry would fall apart if there were car libraries that loaned out Porsches. It's a really incredible example of a clueless entitled man erupting from his comfortable echo chamber into the public discourse. Let's hope this dipshit doesn't give any politicians ideas.

 

Comments (28) RSS

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28
@19: That's true. In his article he goes into it; basically he's annoyed that what he gets paid in exchange for libraries loaning his book is a fraction of what he'd get if all those people bought copies instead.

Honestly, his rant isn't worth much thought beyond, "huh, Britain has dipshit conservatives, too."
Posted by Orv on February 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM · Report this
Arkham 27
It's always sad to hear when an author whose work you liked is a dick. Diana Gabaldon, Orson Scott Card, Terry Deary...
Posted by Arkham http://amaranta20.deviantart.com/gallery/ on February 19, 2013 at 9:58 PM · Report this
sirkowski 26
Open your eyes, sheeple! Public libraries lead to Stalinism.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on February 19, 2013 at 8:17 PM · Report this
25
This ass is a dick. Viva liberries! Unviva this guy!
Posted by Otto Toot Otto on February 19, 2013 at 8:04 PM · Report this
24
Don't tell this guy that there are stores that sell.... USED books! I'm sure he thinks like @23 is saying that everyone throws the books away as soon as they are read and can never be lent or resold ever again
Posted by high and bi on February 19, 2013 at 7:21 PM · Report this
yucca flower 23
What does he think happens to used books? That people read new books once and then toss them into the trash? Does he think people only watch DVDs once and then throw them out when they don't want them anymore? I know VHS has gone the way of the dinosaur but has this man never heard of Blockbuster Video?
Posted by yucca flower on February 19, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
22
I loved libraries, when an author.

Guaranteed sales!

Plus, it was fun to do programs there.

Oh, and how I became a published author? Those childhood trips to the library...
Posted by judybrowni on February 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM · Report this
21
@20 Lets say someone enjoys 4 to 5 books a week and 1 or two movies, so about $100 worth of new product. That would be $400 a month, or $4800/ year. Are your library fanatic friends really going to do that if they don't have a library available? It is possible that their library access has hurt their former patronage of used bookstores, but in any case it likely affects authors to a very limited degree, no matter how rich they are.

Also, if they are at all like me, their late fines are a key component of library funding!
Posted by cracked on February 19, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
20
Here's a question I wonder about sometimes. I love and support libraries and their mission, insofar as I understand it (and I think I do, at least in laymen's terms).

I have a few friends who are library fanatics; they check out books and movies in high volume. But, they are fairly well off; meaning they could afford to spend money on these items.

Is this in keeping with the spirit of libraries? Is there an ethic to self-limiting use of a library if you can afford to pay for such items?

I've never asked this question. :-)
Posted by Timothy http://www.moreperfect.org on February 19, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Report this
19
I believe that under the British system, authors are recompensed for the use of their books on the basis of amount of use - not merely paid royalties when that copy of the book is sold to the library.

The main point, of course, is that this largely amounts to this fellow being upset that society subsidizes poor kids having access to books.
Posted by Warren Terra on February 19, 2013 at 4:50 PM · Report this
18
I get that he's frustrated that libraries exist, but seriously dude, tough shit. You sold an object; it's not yours anymore. You don't get to tell me who I can lend my books to, or that I can't tear out the pages and use them to wipe my ass. I am sick and tired of people with poor business models trying to legislate their way to success.
Posted by Ruke on February 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
17
Can we talk about the license for e-books only allowing 10 people to have it 'checked out' at any given time?

Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on February 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 16
Back when I was a kid, my mom tried to get me to check books out from the library, but I pretty much never did. My few experiments resulted in the book staying out for months. So, instead, I had shelves packed with crappy mass market YA books (Babysitter's Club, that sort of thing) which were eventually supplanted with Star Trek books in my early adolescence.

It's only now that I'm a responsible cheapskate that I feel comfortable borrowing books from the library and reading them only once.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 19, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 15
@14,

I'm sure my dad grew to loathe Mr. Popper's Penguins.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 19, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 14
If children are satisfied with checking your book out for two weeks and reading it a dozen times or so, they hate your book. If kids like it at all, you have to buy a copy and read it to them a few hundred times, at least. If it's Where the Wild Things Are or The Cat in the Hat you read it until the pages fall apart and then buy another copy and read that until its in pieces.

A children's book author who only gets read in libraries needs a new line of work.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on February 19, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
fletc3her 13
Our local libraries actually lend movies and music for free. They even show movies for free from time to time.
Posted by fletc3her on February 19, 2013 at 3:42 PM · Report this
12
If current political trends continue, I expect the libraries to begin closing their doors approximately one week after the last post office closes.
Posted by Proteus on February 19, 2013 at 3:03 PM · Report this
11
Here's a funny quick reply to Mr. Deary's assertion that libraries are no longer relevant, from a Dr. Marc Morris: http://www.marcmorris.org.uk/2013/02/a-l…
Posted by Thel on February 19, 2013 at 2:33 PM · Report this
10
A print author who picks libraries as his arch-nemesis probably has never heard of Netflix, and may not be aware that the Internet exists. For a children's author to attack libraries is twice as sad.
Posted by unpaid reader on February 19, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
9
@7 The only difference being that Netflix gives royalty payments to studios. Not to say I think libraries should be forced to do this (as it would surely crush them), but to make a false equivalency like that is disingenuous.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on February 19, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 8
Libraries don't rent DVDs or CDs?

News to me.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 19, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
internet_jen 7
what does he think Neflix is?
Posted by internet_jen on February 19, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Simac 6
First, libraries cannot buy retail versions of books, generally speaking; a library print edition typically costs 40% to 100% (or more) over the list price. A library edition of an e-book typically costs 300% over the list price. Given the average circulation of a given print or electronic title, those prices pretty much make sure a publisher shouldn't lose money on the whole (on an individual title or two, yes, but not on the whole). The pricing is balanced so the publisher and author (and agent, and sublicensees, and...) all get their cut while making sure that even less popular titles are available.

Second, libraries are not free. Seattleites pay about $100 per capita PER YEAR for the library system. Plus fines that only a subset of us pay.

Third, if libraries were phased out, authors would not necessarily see royalties increase. The existence of libraries merely makes books and media accessible; the existence of libraries does not mean library users would spend their money on new copies of books and media, sending royalties to publishers and authors. There is ample evidence that this is in fact not true.

Fourth, if libraries didn't exist, most books would become unavailable over time because publishers do not make out-of-print, old, or out-of-copyright titles easily available for purchase. Libraries have an archival and documentary function that publishers cannot and will never replicate.

Fifth, libraries promote education and literacy, particularly of children. Future consumers of books are nurtured in libraries. Publishers aren't known for their long games, but libraries do much to ensure we have a public of avid readers who will actually buy books. Communities without libraries or well-funded/well-stocked libraries also buy fewer books in bookstores.
More...
Posted by Simac on February 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM · Report this
5
@3 EXACTLY. Yesterday Walmart put out an earnings report; their spokesmant basically said no one is spending any money, and how could that be? Well, maybe it's because you don't pay people worth a damn, Walmart, and you've depressed wages across the spectrum . . . and that's exactly what would happen if libraries were shuttered. The customer base for books would dwindle. Dreary is a dipshit, Paul's right.
Posted by kalel80806 on February 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM · Report this
4
I have come across this opinion many times. The upshot I most often hear is this:
Libraries are simply expensive places for homeless people to shit. They have lousy hours, long waits for popular titles, warehouses of stuff no one cares about, have shown no leadership on revising licensing for electronic media, are not much more than taxpayer funded 'cyber-cafes', etc.

none of this is false, strictly speaking. But it misses the point that those are the things we have forced the libraries to be, through budgets, erosion of other public services, and so on.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on February 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM · Report this
3
What an idiot. Libraries are also free/cheap advertising for books. I'm always discovering things at the library and then I wind up purchasing those books as gifts or other books by the author for myself, or recommending them to friends who purchase them. I may not pay for every book from the library, but the library influences what I buy.
Posted by Tom Winter on February 19, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
2
Paul, not that I don't necessarily agree with you, but this post is intellectually lazy. You go straight to calling Deary a "dipshit" and "clueless" without spending a single word on why you believe he is substantively in the wrong. Is your opinion really so all-powerful that it need not even be mentioned, to be right?
Posted by someone_in_seattle on February 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
1
Libraries are still a hub of activity for children, especially during the summer time and especially for low-income kids. While middle class kids were sent to various summer "enrichment" programs or camps, I spent days at publicly funding library programs. I became a voracious reader at a young age. This particular author must not appreciate the role libraries play in communities, or how libraries enable people to discover his books.
Posted by wxPDX on February 19, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this

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