Saturday, January 06, 2007

PLR, RIP?

Today, along with every other writer who registered, The Bitch gets her Public Lending Right statement.

Sheesh. Nine titles and what she gets is… well, not enough to make herself a good meal, leave alone buy one out.

Well, The Bitch can’t really complain. Six of those titles were dispensable-commodity jobs, novelisations of a children’s TV drama series, which she was persuaded to write (under a different name) while a single parent and her kids wanted designer trainers like all the rest – transitory paperbacks soon disintegrated and sold off or chucked in the library dustbins. (Good fun and good writing exercises, though.) And as for her three literary titles (two short novels, one reincarnated in a revised edition), well, they were initial-imprint paperbacks too, and came from minority presses and weren’t published in the first place in any true sense of the word, so were never likely to achieve great library borrowings.

But there’s a section on the form this year there never was before: a space to renounce your claim if you haven’t recorded any loans for a number of years. Maybe this is a special version of the statement sent out to those whose loans have dropped, but I wonder: is this a new acknowledgement that Public Lending Right, once fought for so diligently by Maureen Duffy and others as a way of giving writers some reward for the continuing lives of their books in libraries, is now, like publishers’ advances, just a short-term flash-in-the pan? That, as Susan Hill has complained, libraries too see books as dispensable commodities, and themselves no longer as the custodians of literature….?

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