We live in difficult times. Newspaper articles constantly declare that nobody reads any more. Authorities are trying to save money wherever they can and often seize on the fact that reading appears to be on the decline to cut library services and reduce staffing levels. Increasingly, libraries are staffed by volunteers and I can only assume that it's these lovely-but-barely-trained volunteers who hit upon the idea of asking authors for copies of their books to stock libraries, because no actual librarian I know would behave this way. You can almost imagine the thought process: We can't afford books...who has access to free books? Publishers have lots of books but they're running a business, we can't ask them...authors have books and they write the things so must have piles of the things knocking around. Hey, I bet they'd be GLAD to get rid of a few...
This assumes several things - firstly, that authors get unlimited copies of their books (we don't; my last contract gives me six copies that are strictly not for resale and I buy further copies to give away in competitions or to charity), secondly, that once a book is written, we don't need to worry about people buying it, and thirdly, that we're not in business just as much as the publisher is. The money I earn from writing pays my bills and feeds my children\pets\husband. If I don't sell enough books, my publisher is unlikely to offer me another book deal, making it difficult to write more books because I'll have to work elsewhere to pay my bills and feed everyone I have to feed. And if all authors are put in the difficult position of being asked to stock libraries out of our own pockets, then I'm sure I don't need to draw you a picture about how this is going to work out.
|A library, Jim, but not as we know it...the Library of Birmingham is how it should be|
I'd like to live in a world where libraries are treasured and supported as the beacons of knowledge and potential they are (see Library of Birmingham). They're life-rafts for people who couldn't otherwise access such a wide range of titles. They encourage experimentation and risk-taking, because you can take a chance on reading something new if you don't have to pay to try it. But that doesn't mean I think that authors should foot the bill for providing the books to read.
Libraries need to be funded properly, run by librarians and treasured as the skeleton key to many, many doors. So let's nip this idea about asking authors for the books to loan out in the bud, eh?