Public Lending Right – A waste of everyone’s time

Eoin Purcell

Sometimes the EU makes Ireland adopt stupid laws:
Like this one. Public Lending Right is one of those bad ideas that has just become too big to stop, no matter how valid the argument against it. Now I know it comes as surprise to most people to hear a publisher resist the extension of copyright but this one is truly the most useless extension one could devise. Just a few of the reasons why:

1) How do you assess a fee?
I assume one could be assessed by the number of times a book is borrowed by readers. This sounds fine except if the sum per borrow is low (as it is) the totals add up only slowly making the system inefficient and benefiting only the collection agency and the larger authors who don’t really need the money. The people who might actually really need the money (the struggling small author with few books) will not be read enough to get money in any scale. It would be far better to fund those artists directly (which we in any case already do). One could pay on a per book per library basis too. This has some merit but has the same flaw as above. The sums for most authors would be pretty useless. The system would cost as much to administer as the fees paid.

2) Where does the money come from?
Central taxation is the obvious source meaning people who don’t use libraries are paying which fair enough thats the rule. Often unmentioned here though is that people who buy books also pay. So someone who pays the retail price in a store and thus contributes to author royalties, publisher profit and booksellers wages, pays again from their taxes.

Even if you set aside that inconvenient truth look at the reality of budgeting. If Libraries get a certain allocation to cover their expenditure and they need to apportion some amount to pay these PLR fees, there will be less money for books, staff and building. Say what you like but that is the inescapable reality. Libraries budgets will at some point cease rising and PLR fees will be a legally mandated cost, books need not be bought (sadly true).

3) Logical Consistency
Would dictate that everyone should get a portion of the pot. If the author is being compensated for lower sales because of library readership, why is the bookseller not compensated for lower sales as a result fo the same and the publisher too? Are their losses somehow less worthy? I think not.

4) There are better ways
Let the libraries buy more books or pay full price for the copies they buy. That way higher sales would lead to higher royalty payments to the author, the publisher would see some return, money would not need to be wasted on collection data and money and then again on distributing it to authors.

PLR is an ill-conceived, useless idea, thought up by some Culture Buff thinking not of a real world but an imagined one where penniless authors can be rewarded for their endeavour through complicated, bureaucratic systems. Frankly I hate it and cannot see how anyone sees it as useful. I have no doubt that many people think it an essential component of copyright and author protection but not me. That Ireland has given in to the EU is sad, though also inevitable!

My only hope is that people will begin to understand that less copyright protection is what we need, not more. The notion that copyrights are essential to the making of money ought to be put to bed by this, this and this (oh this and this too)

Richard Charkin leaves MacMillan for Bloomsbury

Eoin Purcell

ByeBye Charkinblog
Times they are a changing. Bloomsbury announced that Richard Charkin will join them as executive Director on 1st October:

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc has today appointed Richard Charkin an Executive
Director of the Company with effect from 1 October 2007.

Richard joins the team with responsibility for operations worldwide and with
particular focus on spearheading growth through acquisitions, new publishing
areas and international expansion.

MacMillan also commented and as you might expect, Richard had some words for his own blog:

What it means is that I won’t have to think of something to write about every morning on this blog. Just for the record we’ve had 1,137,267 visitors and generated $338.37 in advertising income. More importantly I’ve made new friends, learned tons and had fun. Thanks to all of you and pip pip from charkinblog.

As if to seal the deal, comments are closed on the post.

Seems like a good move to me

Smart thinking from HarperCollins

Eoin Purcell

This just may be the smartest move by a mainstream publisher in some time. The Bookseller has an article on the new site here. The bones of the idea is helpfully given by HC’s corporate press release:

enables authors to create and post information, images and links quickly and easily. This new author network is a central destination where fans can find exclusive, comprehensive, and authoritative information on their favorite authors.

I am not too interested in how much use this content is on HarperCollins’ sites, although I am fairly sure they will be, what interests me is that by creating a platform for all authors (and I hope they roll this out across everyone of them [currently its got 40 from the Avon imprint]) Harper has moved their game up several dozen notches. When it is in place an functioning perhaps they should consider making it contractual for authors to blog on the platform and allow search engines to index and rank them.

That way when a reader searches an authors name the traffic can be driven not to some strange site controlled by others but directly to the publishers author pages with live blogging material, helpful insights and comments from the author. Currently they don’t seem to offer comments which is a shame and should be changed. They do have this (See below):

option on author pages (Victoria Alexander in this case). Two e-mail sign ups for readers. One that sends out a general e-mail from the Avon group and another that sends out alerts for that author. Clever stuff.

Author Assistant is cleverly packaged as an author tool (which in some ways it is) and hides the real advantage which is to build the marketing base for HarperCollins. I for one can see no problem with that, in fact I think its rather smart.

Listening to Feist but wishing I was at the gig!

Words to freak you out by . .

Eoin Purcell

Not so long ago David McWilliams gave the Irish book industry a real kicking an walked away with huge sales and great hype with: The Pope’s Children (Published by Gill & MacMillan)

Now he is kicking the whole economy (and it needs it) with The Generation Game> Some frankly terrifying lines from todays second episode in the three part TV series that accompanies it:

    – All the world’s botox is made in Westport
    – The MAC Store in Dublin Airport is the 6th biggest MAC store (by revenue) in the World
    – We are now the biggest foreign property investors in the UK
    – Last year we invested 60 tomes more overseas properties than we did in high tech start ups

I think this book will go well too!

It is a good series.

Exact Editions for book publishers

Eoin purcell

And Google should be worried
Had time allowed this week, i was hoping to do a quick comparison of online book services. As it happens I am glad I didn’t have that time because Adam Hodgkin over at Exact Editions has announced something I have know about but not been able to talk about for a little bit, Exact Editions for Book Publishers:

We have for some weeks been testing how Exact Editions works as a promotional service to book publishers and the first customisation is now in the open for Berkshire Publishing at

The service looks great and I think the control it offers publishers is an enormous plus in its favour. You should go spend a little time checking it out. There is more from Berkshire too:

This platform provides fast searching of text, maps, captions, and index, as well as extensive linking within the text. We’re providing access to the complete volumes for this limited introductory period.

Overall I am impressed