Oh yes indeed, this is wholly moral behaviour

A fiery Jeanette Winterson has called for the hundreds of millions of pounds of profit which Amazon, Starbucks and Google were last week accused of diverting from the UK to be used to save Britain\’s beleaguered public libraries.

In an impassioned speech at the British Library this evening, the award-winning author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit said: \”Libraries cost about a billion a year to run right now. Make it two billion and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here. Or if they want to go on paying fancy lawyers to legally avoid their moral duties, then perhaps those companies could do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries for a new kind of future in a fairer and better world?\”

Author calls for other people to be taxed for money to be spent on the produce of authors.

In The City this is known as \”talking your own book\”. We might also describe it as \”spend other peoples\’ money on me\”.

Highly moral behaviour.

22 comments on “Oh yes indeed, this is wholly moral behaviour

  1. While I think Ms Winterson deserves a good kicking on a regular basis, daily perhaps, is this fair?

    I forget what the situation is, but in the good old days, weren’t publishers required to hand over books to libraries either for free or at least very cheaply? Added to which people who read books in libraries may or may not buy them later on. I am inclined to think not on the whole.

    So isn’t she demanding support for something that is either not giving her any money at all (rather like her publisher really) or is actually taking m0ney away from her?

    My God this blog is having a bad influence on me. First of all I defend Caroline Lucas. Now some lesbian fruitloop. I think I need a some rest and relaxation.

  2. The bigger point which JW is missing is that public libraries are just so 19th Century.

    When content could only be accessed through the medium of a book, and such things were expensive, there was a need to give wider access. With technological advances, it’s probably better to turn libraries into branches of coffee shops and let people borrow Kindles for downloading etc .

  3. Authors get royalties from libraries. I think it’s about 6p a loan, with a limit of about 6 grand. So it’s not an appeal for taxpayer’s money to go to her, but it is an appeal for taxpayer’s money to go to (or continue to go to) authors in general. And librarians.

  4. I don’t want a chuffing library. I can buy books from Amazon, of the paper variety, second-hand, delivered, for less than the 2 return bus fares to collect and return a book.

    And that ain’t even the state-of-the-art: I can download The Picture of Dorian Gray, Newton’s Principia or The Aeneid for absolutely nothing from the internet and read on a Kindle that costs £60, or less than the price per capita of Swindon’s new (empty) library.

    You might as well call for a tax on car makers to keep blacksmiths in business.

  5. Slibs – “Authors get royalties from libraries. I think it’s about 6p a loan, with a limit of about 6 grand.”

    She would have to sell, what?, 3,000 copies to make that sort of money? I expect for Ms Winterton libraries are her main source of income. From writing at least. No doubt she makes out like a bandit from all the government grants to angry lesbian writers.

    4Tim Almond – “I don’t want a chuffing library. I can buy books from Amazon, of the paper variety, second-hand, delivered, for less than the 2 return bus fares to collect and return a book.”

    I, on the other hand, do want a library. And while they seem to have lost the plot about what they are for, they do actually play an important role for people who want to read. Not everyone has a Kindle. Not everyone can surf the net for cheap second hand books. Some people need a quiet place to read. Libraries still play a useful role for immigrants and the poor. And especially their children. It is not to be despised.

  6. Pingback: Annals of Odd Complaint: Moaning that Google Does Exactly What You Say You Want It To Do - Spectator Blogs

  7. SMFS, yep author who are not in the best selling league get a lot of their income from libraries.

    I do want a library too, but not a state funded one. Why not private libraries where you pay a small subscription for the right to borrow books. And for those who can’t afford, the state pays for your subscription (or part thereof) for those that want to make use of a library. This could be via a voucher scheme so that the person on benefits can’t spend the cash on stuff that is not intellectually uplifting. Other methods include schools and councils etc bulk buying membership at a discount for the poorer.

  8. Instead of trying the sob story and increasing the tax burden, perhaps she’d be a better lefty if she asked BAE systems to divert some of the existing tax payer largesse they receive, swapping lives in the 3rd world for new libraries ?

  9. “spend other peoples’ money on me”

    Another excellent, succinct summarisation of the leftist point of view.

  10. Not everyone has a Kindle. Not everyone can surf the net for cheap second hand books. Some people need a quiet place to read. Libraries still play a useful role for immigrants and the poor. And especially their children. It is not to be despised.

    I don’t despise libraries. I’m just saying that the economics has shifted against them. The Very Hungry Caterpillar costs £3.49 from WH Smith. That’s around half an hour at minimum wage. Would a multicolour book have cost half the wage of a labourer in 1900?

    A study was done of London boroughs that found that the cost per rental (based on total cost divided by cost of books) was more than the cost of the average paperback in a supermarket.

    At that point, why not just give the poor the cash and let them buy the books?

  11. SMFS –

    I, on the other hand, do want a library.

    OK, here you go. An annual subscription will cost you less than your telly license.

  12. > I expect for Ms Winterton libraries are her main source of income.

    I know writers aren’t the most flush types, but I expect 6k isn’t the main part of her income.

    I remember reading a while ago that the great majority of loans from UK libraries were made up of a few authors popular with middle-aged ladies, like Barbara Taylor Bradford. I even remember one statistic about how Catherine Cookson comprised 55% of all library loans one year. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what libraries are mainly used for these days, providing free reading material for middle-aged ladies who can easily afford to buy their own books, plus cheap DVD rentals which clearly should not be subsidized by the taxpayer, and free internet use for a few local weirdos.

  13. Locally for £35 a year I can borrow books from a nearby university library. Can simply use the library for free. Four floors of books, about 30 times the books of our local central lending public library – which is more efficient?

  14. “providing free reading material for middle-aged ladies who can easily afford to buy their own books,”
    Just try being well over 70 years of age and see if you feel the same. What woulde you use for money?

  15. “Libraries cost about a billion a year to run right now. Make it two billion…”

    Why not 6 billion?

    Anyway, I went to my local library for about 5 weeks a few years ago while Soviet Telecom dallied over flicking a switch at their end to turn on my Internet connection. It was bedlam. A crèche, people talking loudly, personal stereos on maximum, mad winos yelling…the difference between that and my childhood experience of libraries was unbelievable.

  16. It was bedlam. A crèche, people talking loudly, personal stereos on maximum, mad winos yelling…the difference between that and my childhood experience of libraries was unbelievable.

    Ah, but it is inclusive.

  17. It might help if some of the people writing here ever went to a library.

    Certainly here in central London they are not used primarily to borrow books they are a quiet studious space for students (of all ages) to work and others to research (from new jobs to local history).

  18. 15 years ago libraries were a good source of cheap second hand books.

    No longer; they’ve sold everything worth reading.

  19. “if they want to go on paying fancy lawyers to legally avoid their moral duties, then perhaps those companies could do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries”

    They already have built new kinds of libraries; Google Books and Amazon’s Kindle stores have had a number of books available for zero or very little cost (pennies). They also have new kinds of librarians; computers which will find relevant things for you faster and more effectively than many librarians (even the good ones).

  20. @SMFS

    “Not everyone has a Kindle. Not everyone can surf the net for cheap second hand books.”

    For the price of running libraries, we could probably give everyone a 3G-enabled Kindle which can also surf the net.

    Now, as it happens, for reasons of the DRM, I’d much rather it wasn’t specifically a Kindle, but the principle holds.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>