The next time I buy a DVD or CD (as opposed to downloading it, which is something I’m morally against) I’ll just walk out of the store with it, is that okay? Or Virgin Media. who organise the carriage of programmes into homes (and are better at it than Sky), let’s not pay them either. Well, the idea’s not so different from not paying writers.
We’ve had enough of this ‘free content’ idea now. We’re calling on the government to pay us when our ebooks are lent from libraries. It’s absurd that digital titles are currently borrowed with no payment made to the writer.
Authors are paid 6.05p every time their physical books are borrowed from the UK’s public libraries, up to a maximum of £6,600, under the government-funded Public Lending Right scheme. But ebooks and audiobooks, a fast-growing sector for library users, are not included, even though the Digital Economy Act of 2010 paved the way for this to be done.
Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors called it “terribly unfair” and said that “authors should be properly remunerated” for their work. “It’s very important to understand that authors do rely on PLR – it’s not just a nice little bonus. Many authors get PLR who are not bestsellers but do very well in libraries. People borrow very different books from the book they buy,” she said. “And authors can’t continue to write if they are not paid for their work.”
Any ebook lending should result in a PLR payment to the author. PLR is designed to balance the social need for free public access to books against an author’s right to be remunerated for the use of their work. We have earned it. It’s not a benefit but a right. There is no difference between ebooks and print books – it is all work, produced for people to read, and an ebook is just another version of a title, in the same way that a paperback is.
But many publishers have yet to sign up to the practice, believing that libraries should concentrate on delivering physical books to those least able to afford them, rather than offering ebooks to users who can afford readers, a flawed and slightly bizarre argument.