Brett points at a Guardian article on Terry Deary and his opinion that libraries are no longer relevant. In fact, Mr. Deary goes further: he thinks libraries are destroying the book business by preventing authors, publishers, and bookshops from getting paid.

From the article:

As one of the most popular library authors – his books were borrowed more than 500,000 times during 2011/12 – Deary will have received the maximum amount possible for a writer from the Public Lending Right scheme, which gives authors 6.2p every time one of their books is borrowed, up to a cap of £6,600. "If I sold the book I'd get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000. But never mind my selfish author perception – what about the bookshops? The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?" he asked.

He's making several of the same false claims that people in the media business always make whenever they see people enjoying any kind of cultural products without paying for them.

  1. Every loan from a library is not a lost sale. More than 500 thousand loans does not mean 500 thousand lost sales. When borrowing a book is free, people will do it even if they aren't sure if they're going to like a book.

    The cheapest book by Mr. Deary I Amazon UK is £4.27 when sold as new by amazon (I'll ignored used books for the moment). The threshold for buying a book at that price is much, much higher than borrowing on for free.

  2. Letting people have stuff for free does not automatically mean they won't pay for other stuff. Indeed, they may well pay for the very stuff they got for free. See the several experiments to let customers set their own price for music, books, or computer games, or the success Cory Doctorow has letting people download e-books of his novels for free, and then letting people donate one or more hardcopies of the book to schools and libraries. This is not a model that will work well for everyone, but it proves the point: charging people money for each copy is not necessary to make good profit.

    In fact, studies of "Internet pirates", or people who download music and movies (and books) more or less illegally from the Internet, show that such people tend to spend more money on music and movies (and books!) than the average person. That's not something the publishers want to talk about, or hear. (I am talking here about real research, not the propganda material that lobbying organisations produce.)

  3. Why would people buy a book in the first place? They need to know they'll like it, but more importantly, they need to like reading in the first place. See point 1: if books cost any amount of money, the threshold for getting one is high. If you don't have easy, convenient access to books when you're a child, you're unlikely to be a reader of books when you're an adult. Public libraries are the perfect way to give people access to a wide variety of literature. In fact, they're about the most perfect marketing ploy in the history of media: the libraries pay for the books, and they pay each time they loan out a book, and every time a new future customer is brainwashed that much more into getting more stuff in the future.

    Libraries are not just for children, of course. Adult readers use them as well, and they're just as important as children, as far as the marketing ploy is concerned.

It's a bit sad that bookshops are dying out. Public libraries have, however, nothing to do with it. Online booksellers are usually cheaper, and have vastly larger catalogues, and that's a much more likely culprit. Also, bookshops have no intrinsic right to exist: they're middle-men who make a living by making it more convenient for customers to get what they want, and if they get out-competed, that's business life.

Now, I neglected above to consider the possibility of buying used books. The reason for that is that media companies, and their lobbying organisations, would like to make selling of used books, music recordings, movies, and computer games not happen anymore. For example, Sony, and files patents for, stopping people from playing used games on its game consoles, even without Internet access.

Mr. Deary seems to be following the MPAA and RIAA checklist on how to talk about those evil people who enjoy something without paying for it every time. It can't be long before he starts asking for a ban on selling used books.

Let's hope, however, that reality and facts and sense win this time, and that we can let Mr. Deary live alone in his little horrible hallucination.