Friday, September 02, 2005

"The rental library swindle"

One of the perks of my job is that the very generous parent and student community here often honor me with gift certificates. If they know me well, they make it a bookstore gift certificate.

Last June I receive a gift certificate from some students for a used bookstore nearby. Among other things, I purchased The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. Well worth having if you're a fan of Chandler.

On page 60 Chandler laments his puny royalties from Knopf and offers this observations:

"I should have starved to death if I had been dependent on what Knopf paid me. (...) And the publishers have cooperated in the rental library swindle over a period of years with such infinite good humor that even I, who realize the position of the author and can afford to buy mysteries, very seldom do so, unless in free reprints." [emphasis mine]

Today, writers rarely complain about the fact the library takes away from their royalties. However, there are those very vocal writers (and their advocates) who want to see both libraries and used bookstores start paying a royalty, if only a token one, to the author.

Have US libraries ever considered such a thing? I've never heard the issue come up. But evidently in Chandler's day this was still contentious.

Given the concentration of the publishing industry, the decline of the mid-list, and the competition to find the next blockbuster (often at the expense of good, though not yet popular, authors), this is an issue that may come back.

I believe British libraries DO PAY a royalty to authors.

An interesting issue, well beyond my limited knowledge of the publishing world.


At 10:08 AM, Blogger Akaky said...

isnt spam wonderful?

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Paul Pennyfeather said...


Yes, and how disapointing to see that all my really enthusiastic compliments are just a prelude to spam.

I looked at your blog profile. My, my, we do seem to have some of the same tastes in movies and music.

Which means, of course, that you are obviously an intelligent and cultured individual.

Now I must leave to yell at 4th graders. Ta, ta!

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