image Novelists, Inc. wants used bookstores to pay fees to publishers. The group frets that novelists are missing out on royalties.

And now the shocker of the day! A study cited in Parade Magazine says a family of four can save up to $2,500 a year by borrowing just 10 items a month from the public library. That’s 120 items a year, averaging $20.83 each.

Significantly, public libraries are godsends to students and job-hunters. But Philadelphia and San Diego may shut down some branches, and library budgets are tight in many other cities.

So what would Novelists, Inc. think of that. Cheery news? Probably not, but it’s still something for the group to ponder as it continues its war against used bookstores. Will libraries be its next targets?

Background: Used books blamed in NYT for slump, as well as Chris Meadows’ Should second-hand book stores pay royalties? 


In a related vein…

Also see America’s Most Literate Cities (top three: Minneapolis, shown in photo, Seattle and Washington, D.C.). The study found that both libraries and bookstores were more numerous in high-literacy areas, even those with heavy Internet use. Might literary be leading to more literacy?

The best way to grow the publishing industry’s profits isn’t to gouge readers, but to rather to team up with libraries and schools to market books and literacy in general—not just to the public but to policymakers.

Speaking of literacy: Check out Different Kind of Library Thief in Yesterday’s Paper.

And a reminder: I fervently agree with Novelists, Inc., that writers are underpaid. But there are better ways to correct this. Consumers are cash-strapped and have many entertainment options. When it comes to books, “free” just might be the best model, with provisions, of course, for libraries compensating content-providers fairly.

Plus, an “I told you so”: I love libraries of all kinds and sizes, paper and electronic, big and small. But given the miserliness and short-sightedness of many politicians and voters, even in high-literacy areas, should certain libraries really have spent so much money on flashy headquarters buildings when the real action was and in neighborhood branches? For years I’ve warned against the library palace syndrome. Greater use of e-books, naturally, would be another way to get more per buck out of library spending.

Detail: Yes, I wish Parade had cited the family-related study by name, so I could find out more about its methodology and so on. Just how does “family of four” enter the picture? The ten-item-a-month stat would seem to apply in many cases; is family size that relevant? And what about other variables such as ages of the children?

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  1. I still remember an article I read (and blogged about here) which talked about the effects on the community when libraries were updated. They talked about how people don’t just go there to borrow books, but how they become meeting places and community centres for many in the community, how it can economically and socially invigorate an area too when a library is renovated because it creates this feeling of something exciting going on and people respond to that. Our library system here even runs author events (which they charge money for) which can be revenue streams for both the library and the authors. If authors really want to make *money* (as opposed to just doing art for the heck of it) there is a ton of potential in this day and age for them to think outside the box, rather than taxing readers and book buyers until they kill the industry altogether by pricing their product right out of people’s reach.

  2. Of course libraries are next. In the UK, at least, and I suspect other parts of Europe, libraries already pay royalties based on the number of times a work is checked out.

    Realistically, I don’t think this will fly any time in the near future–but even David’s Teleread concept includes a well-stocked library with compensation to authors.

    Finding ways to compensate authors in a world where books are essentially freely exchangeable files is going to be the challenge of the next decade. I truly hope there’s a solution–and I think affordable eBooks is a key part of that solution.

    Rob Preece

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