Neil Gaiman, in his role as patron of The Open Rights Group, has recorded a video piece all about digital piracy and books (and by extension, Comics). The take away bit, the potentially contentious bit is this:
“….. And that’s really all this is; it’s people lending books.”
Those nice folks at Comic Alliance have transcribed more of the interview….
“You’re not losing sales by getting stuff out there. When I do a big talk now on these kinds of subjects and people ask “What about the sales you are losing by having stuff floating out there?” I started asking the audience to raise their hands for one question — Do you have a favorite author? And they say yes and I say good. What I want is for everybody who discovered their favorite author by being lent a book put up your hand. Then anybody who discovered their favorite author by walking into a book story and buying a book. And it’s probably about 5-10%, if that, of the people who discovered their favorite author who is the person they buy everything of and they buy the hardbacks. And they treasure the fact they’ve got this author. Very few of them bought the book. They were lent it. They were given it. They did not pay for it. That’s how they found their favorite author. And that’s really all this is; it’s people lending books.”
And, from personal experience, I can’t really argue with any of that. I know most of my author discoveries came from three sources, none of which involved me spending any money: friends recommending things, school and most importantly of all – the local public library.
The digital age certainly changes things. For example, in years gone by, once you discovered an author and had money to spend it was highly likely you’d take a trip to the local bookshop for a copy of something else by the author.
Nowadays, it’s all too easy to grab a pirate copy. Which is where it falls to us all to attempt to support the writers, the artists and the creators. If we loved them as much as we say we do, surely we don’t want to steal their work and cause them financial distress – that doesn’t work at all.
But in the same way that home taping didn’t kill music, there’s no reason, with enough changes in promotion, marketing and thinking in the book and music industry that they can’t adapt to the digital age. Putting their collective corporate heads in the sand and trying to ignore the problem just wont work though. We need a complete solution to the problem, making digital easier and available to those who want it, at a price that’s both economically viable for the publisher and creator and attractive to the consumer.
Of course, we live in the new age of austerity, where the public library is suddenly seen as some sort of expensive luxury item for a community rather than an essential requirement. We stand on the brink of an age where a child wont be able to wander into their local library and be amazed at the world of books – all for them, all for free.
I’m tired of hearing politicians and councillors making casual remarks that seem to paint libraries as some sort of money pit with no value. It’s also disingenuous to directly compare libraries with other front line services in a “would you rather have a library or a hospital” type argument. Cutting nurses or police numbers may have an immediate effect.
But cut libraries and you do something far more dangerous – you start eating away at the artistic and literary education of our children, you rob them of a cultural heritage, you steal away a love of reading, you remove a trigger to think and to dream.
On which note – I didn’t blog this at the time, but the recent Library Closure Protests saw Alan Moore come out to support his local library. And, as you might expect, he says it far better than I ever could…. (although I couldn’t help but think that having Alan Moore quietly talking to camera with a man dressed up in a skeleton costume may have been the reason the small child in the background was crying.)