This week, Publishers Weekly gives us The Case for Libraries. I’ve always been a huge advocate of libraries as playing an essential role in providing services and opportunities to people of all backgrounds, including the tools needed to develop literacy and thrive in a literacy-based world, but it’s great to see them being promoted on a site devoted to selling books. I particularly like the section devoted to myths about libraries.
Libraries cannibalize book sales. Part of this myth is based in reality: a certain percentage of library lends would indeed be publisher sales if the books were not available freely from the library. But this ignores greater truths about libraries. Unlike bookstores, they do not remainder books. So they’re stuck with their purchases even if their patrons show little interest. Unlike indie bookstores, libraries buy very broadly, so most of their titles don’t fly off the shelves like bestsellers. And part of the audience they serve would likely never buy hardcovers or non-discounted paperbacks in any case. So cannibalization is greatly overestimated.
Until recently, the only books I bought were ones I’d already ‘test-driven’, so to speak, at the library. They were much-anticipated sequels from beloved authors I’d discovered at – wait for it – the library. Then I started buying new books that weren’t available at the library from authors I’d already borrowed half a dozen library books from; they weren’t sequels I was desperate to read, but they were books I knew I’d enjoy and I wanted to support the authors as I’d already read several of their books ‘for free’.* Then I kind of went crazy and spent £90 on books last month, so I’m on a self-imposed book-buying ban (pre-orders of sequels don’t count 😛 ) for the foreseeable future. But the point stands: the people, like myself, who use libraries the most are using them because they can’t afford to buy all the books they’d like to read. Whether we’re looking at my past, unemployed self, who agonised over every book purchased, or my current, employed self, who reads up to 4 books a week and does have things like, you know, bills, although there are books I buy because the library doesn’t have them, I wouldn’t be purchasing more books without the library; I’d be reading less, because I just can’t afford to buy 4 books at £6-10 a week.
*Not really free, because a) the library buys the books (with money from my council taxes) and b) checking books out increases their circulation, which informs the library’s future buying decisions; in other words, the more people that borrow Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White, the more likely the library is to buy her next book when it comes out.
Whew, that turned out to be longer than I’d expected. Yeah, I’m passionate about libraries. You know what else I’m passionate about? Preserving language. And, in the Highlands, a new initiative is aimed at doing just that, in conjunction with helping elderly people with dementia retain their memories and connect to their communities.
And this wouldn’t be Nicola’s Literary Linking without at least one article on women and gender in the book world, now, would it? This week’s article comes from Katherine Angel, on the London Review of Books and its response to criticism of its gender imbalance in reviews:
If women’s voices are always peripheral to male voices intoning from the center of culture, then their voices are peripheral on all issues: the pay gap, consent, harassment, rape, domestic violence, reproductive freedom, the glass ceiling, childcare.
Actually, I have another contender for Feminist Article Of The Week, thanks to Rhiannon Thomas’s blog, Feminist Fiction. This one‘s a bit older, but I came across it yesterday and found it quite interesting. In it, she argues that part of the appeal of the general narrative of YA dystopias is that it’s about teenage girls rising against pointless rules and lack of choice – and winning:
Because yes, these worlds suck. But in YA dystopia, they can also be changed. And teenage girls are the ones to change them.
And finally, Samantha Shannon, another author whose books I’ve read and loved recently, has a post on world-building up on her blog. There are a lot of posts on world-building on the internet, but I think this one’s a really good primer and basic breakdown of the ways to world-build and what to consider.