Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow: 'We need to find (the solution) in partnership with our libraries'

'Libraries and writers are the two groups in this whole dynamic whose interests are most closely aligned'

Well, I think that there's alot of different ways to slice the question of e-books in libraries.

There are questions of principle, there are questions of immediate income, there are questions of sensible policy, there are questions of law.

As a practical matter, I think that libraries have been so important to the careers of writers, and librarians are such fabulous advocates and, in particular, nonpartisan advocates for authors... I mean when you think of the people who advocate for authors right now, we have one enormous Internet bookseller that really wants to sell books, don't get me wrong, I think that if Amazon has any priority in this whole, wide world, it's to sell the hell out of books, but it's to sell the hell out of books to benefit Amazon, right and not... ...not because they're evil, but because they're a for-profit institution and that's their thing.

Publishers want to sell the hell out of books, too, and they want to sell the hell out of your books, provided your books are profitable for them, but as we all know publishers aren't charities and when writers cease to be profitable enough for them, we end up getting dropped.

There's been all of this consolidation in the retail sector. There has been even more consolidation in distribution. There's been so much consolidation in publishing.

And so, whereas before, it might have been, well you're with a little publisher, there's another publisher across the street if you get too rank with them. Now there's five publishers left. There's one effective retailer and then a bunch of indie stores that I love dearly, but that are, in the grand scheme of things, are a tiny piece of it.

There's only one powerful voting block out there whose only interest is in promoting authorship, books and knowledge to the exclusion of things like shareholders or Kindle e-book sales and lock ins, or ad sales, or the invasion of privacy, and that's libraries. There can't be a solution to this that starts with an adversarial role between libraries writers.

Libraries and writers are the two groups in this whole dynamic whose interests are most closely aligned. And whatever answer we find to this, I think we need to find a partnership with our libraries not least because libraries are under such vicious assault in this time of austerity and contracting access to public services. And so many of us discovered our love for books in libraries, and so many of our readers did, that we need to preserve them, right?

When there's not anymore of the booksellers, like I was when I was a bookseller who was hand-selling our books to people... ...who's left except for the librarian, who takes that one-book-a-day kid who's going to be the 20% that reads 80% of the books. And when they walk in says, "Here's a book you've got to read." If it's not a librarian, who's going to do it?

I think that whatever the solution publishers find with libraries, it can't rely on the idea that their single biggest group of top-grossing customers have to pay six times what everybody else pays for access to books. That just doesn't make any sense to me. That pricing seems, frankly to me, predatory.

And the fact that all the publishers have hit on pricing that's very, very high, to me sounds dangerous and like the kind of thing that publishers recently got into a lot of trouble for. As an author, I want libraries to have my books. And I want them to be able to get them on equitable terms, and on terms that are not materially different from the terms that you or I would buy an e-book.

And so it seems like a no-brainer.Libraries should be able to buy the books the same way you buy books, the same way I buy books, the same way they bought books forever, the same way that they bought books for longer than there's been copyright, for longer than there has been publishing, for longer there's been paper. Libraries should be able to buy books and they should be able to buy them on fair terms.

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