I covered Terry Deary’s comment about libraries yesterday but there’s been more coverage today and more things to be angry about.  Therefore, more needs writing on the subject … and here it is:

Terry Deary has at least put the nail in the coffin that authors who support libraries are merely being selfish by claiming that libraries hurt authors and how he’s out of pocket because of their existence.  Perhaps the answer to his question “Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?” is that other authors are not being as nakedly and shortsightedly selfish.

Those authors in favour of libraries (see here for a list), especially those of children fiction like (but also so unlike) Deary are aware that most of the population with a reading habit cannot afford to buy everything that they want to buy and that limiting access to those with an ability to pay severely detriments literacy and so the future success of the country.   This is especially the case with children who may be effectively barred from reading outside of school if their parents cannot afford to pay. Such children of course would not be able to buy Horrible Histories and thus he is not out of pocket.  In fact, he’s gaining on the deal as the library is buying a copy of his work which the poorest child would not be able to afford.  For those more in the money, the library serves to introduce them to the books and to get them hooked so they’d be more likely to buy them.  So, Terry wins again.  His argument against “something for nothing” therefore is revealed into what it really is – an author wanting to charge highly for his cake and to be able to eat it too.

In addition, there are many who are not as fortunate as the wealthy Deary – say, for example, those at the edge of society as well as the elderly and the unemployed – who would face a far harsher existence without the libraries that he has taken such a dislike to.  A man came up to me a couple of years ago and said he would commit suicide without libraries.  Those who work in libraries are all aware of the many people who say “I don’t know what I’d do without a library”.  In Deary’s world, they’d need to find out quickly – and I suspect they would lead lonelier, colder, sadder and, yes, shorter lives.  Even in purely economic terms (and that’s always a dangerous thing, putting a price on knowledge) public libraries make national sense.  Have a look at these reports if you don’t believe me:

The argument that libraries are killing bookshops must come as a shock to everyone who thought that, perhaps, it was cheap internet bookshops and e-books that were responsible for it.

I have seen the author described as proudly calling himself an anarchist and we should all pause a while at what this actually means.  It means every man for himself, no government, no safety net.  It also, amusingly, Mr Deary, means no copyright protection because there’d be no legal body to enforce it.  Luckily though, we do not (the best efforts of this Government notwithstanding) yet live in such a world.  We have libraries because we are a society who invests in its young and cares for its old and those down on their luck.  A world which Deary envisages would indeed be horrible.


  • Libraries ‘have had their day’, says Horrible Histories author – Guardian.  More from an unrepentant Terry Deary: “”People have to make the choice to buy books. People will happily buy a cinema ticket to see Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and expect to get the book for free. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They’ve got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don’t expect to go to a food library to be fed.”

“If I sold the book I’d get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000. But never mind my selfish author perception – what about the bookshops? The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?” he asked. Bookshops are closing down, he said, “because someone is giving away the product they are trying to sell.” Terry Deary

Notable tweets (with any possibly actionable insults removed)

Further reading

  • Anger over Deary library views – BookSeller.  Summarises responses such as “Children’s author David Almond, who has spoken out several times on behalf of beleaguered Newcastle libraries, tweeted: “Terry Deary on libraries: self-serving ignorant cynical twaddle.””
  • Terry Deary’s horrible library statement – Alan Gibbons. “When I was mounting a campaign against the SAT tests some years ago, I approached Terry for support. He replied that he was an anarchist and we shouldn’t abolish SATs, we should abolish schools! … Some of us who have devoted enormous amounts of time and effort to the library cause, who have marched and petitioned, lobbied and demonstrated, argued with councillors and Ministers feel utterly betrayed by Terry’s words. Does he really want to line up with the philistines? Terry’s pronouncement is not quirky or eccentric or ‘just Terry.’ In current circumstances it is downright irresponsible.”.