The TL;DR version of the article: libraries are outmoded institutions that are killing bookstores and should be done away with.
As an author, I have to stand here in jawdropped admiration for someone willing to be so totally wrongheadedly stupid in public and to stand by it. It takes a special talent to put on such blinders and then fight everyone around you who tries to take them off.
One would *think* a person with the ability to write 200 books, many of them having to do with history, might be able to look around and realize that if his premise were true -- that people don't buy books because they can go get them at the library for free -- that bookstores would have failed DECADES ago, when libraries were at their peak, rather than now, when they've been systematically eroded.
Instead, the bookstores are dying now for two different reasons: 1) Clumsy and stupid mismanagement -- Borders did it first but B&N seems to be trying to catch up fast, 2) The Rise of eBooks. If they didn't have #1 they might survive #2, but the combination is gonna kill them.
He also brings up as a negative point something that gobsmacks me as an American author: he whines that he only gets 6000 pounds from his books being borrowed instead of the 180k pounds he'd get if he sold that many.
(A) this is the same fallacy the RIAA and others use to claim that every downloaded song is a lost sale. It's not.
(B) you know, here in the States we get *NOTHING* when someone borrows a book. You should be happy you're getting so much extra cash. (FYI, Mr. Deary, my total advance is less than your library fee payments.
(C) I am *ECSTATIC* when the libraries notice my books. Libraries pay for those copies, you know, and that counts towards MY sales. Moreover, if they lend them a lot, they have to replace the books... which they pay for, again.
(D) Libraries HELP AUTHORS, you fool! That's where kids -- who have little money to begin with -- can go and discover you, or me, or Verne, or any old or new authors, and then bug their parents into buying them copies. I spent HOURS in my local library, and I now own copies of a lot of the books I read there. The libraries are a major support of the "long tail" in book sales, where a book may drop off the bestseller lists but keeps steadily selling a few more here, a few more there...
(E) Yes,public libraries as we know them WERE invented in the Victorian era to start providing the poor and disadvantaged with access to the knowledge of our civilization. WE STILL HAVE POOR AND DISADVANTAGED. THEY STILL NEED THAT ACCESS, thank you very much. Or do you have some delusion that everyone out there is now middle-class or better, with no more poor people wondering if they can afford to eat? Hell, I have a pretty decent job PLUS my book sideline, and I *STILL* can't really afford to buy all the books and such that I want. And I'm VERY far from being near the bottom.
Mr. Deary, you're essentially campaigning for something that will lose you money, cut your exposure to new customers (especially children, which are your target market!), and help destroy the remaining book industry. It's rare indeed to see someone so nobly champion their own destruction.
Bravo, Mr. Deary. Well played.