Horrible Economics

Terry Deary on Libraries (from the Guardian)

Terry Deary (of Horrible Histories fame) thinks bookshops are closing because libraries are cutting their throats by lending out books rather than selling them. Uh, not so fast.

Libraries were much stronger in the 80s as I recall, when libraries were being upgraded and extended (like the big library in Croydon, where I grew up). There were also a lot more independent bookshops around, rather than a couple of big chains.

Bookshops have declined along with libraries. Why? Because they can’t compete with Amazon, which doesn’t pay high street rents but sends out books from big out-of-town warehouses and dodges tax by sending some items from the Channel Islands. Unlike other high street shops, people do go into bookshops, but only to buy low-value items. Expensive books they buy online, unless they have tokens. You can even get your smartphone out and order from Amazon from within the bookshop!

He may be right that libraries are out of date, but they do provide an important service to the community - a quiet place to read and study and do local research. Even if library loans make less money for authors than sales, for a prolific writer like Deary, a good library read may lead to a sale of that or another book. A remarkably ignorant and greedy thing for a children’s author to say.

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