For non-Brits and others, I should explain that Public Lending Right is a legal right in the UK and Northern Ireland, which pays a small amount per library loan, to all authors registered for the scheme. 6.2p per loan doesn't sound like a lot, but it really adds up, and for many authors whose books aren't the sort which bookshops stock, and/or whose books are out of print but continue to be read. The scheme is capped at about £5000 per author, so that the mega-lent authors (who also tend to be the mega-selling authors) get as much as anyone else, but no more. For many authors it is their single biggest annual earner, and it recognises the fact that the life of our books, for readers, goes on long after we're no longer visible in the three-for-twos. It not only keeps us in business financially; it keeps us in business mentally: we are still read.
The current government proposes to abolish the very small and highly efficent body which administers this right, and to give its responsibilities to another body, most of which have no experience of this kind of work.
More details at the Society of Authors website here.
Today is the last day you can have your say about moving the administration of PLR away from the current body. I've made my submission by email at email@example.com, and there's also an online petition here.
You don't have to be a professional author to be concerned in this: if you have any hopes of becoming an author, or just feel that writing matters and the UK's system of lending libraries is crucial to our cultural life, this matters to you, and you can have your say. And in case you're pressed for time this is what I've said: feel free to borrow or adapt. Just please do get it in by the end of today, UK time.
Dear Department of Culture, Media and Sport
I am a professional author (see www.emmadarwin.com) and I would like to submit the following to the PLR Consultation Process:
PLR is enormously helpful in keeping professional authors able to work, and therefore contributes substantially to the cultural and social vibrancy of the UK, and to the economic viability of the creative sector, which is the third largest sector of the UK’s economy.
Without a properly funded and administered PLR system, only authors who have a private income, or who spend their working lives earning their living by other means, will be able to afford to write, with a consequent narrowing of the cultural and social life of this country.
The Registrar of Public Lending Right and his staff are notably efficient and helpful, the current PLR Office is light on bureaucracy, very economically run, and strong on service. A transfer to a new body would inevitably involve teething problems and increased bureaucracy. It is difficult to see how any new body could administer PLR more economically than the current organisation: the Registrar and his staff have many years of expertise and experience, and the systems are in place to administer the scheme.
The costs of any transfer, and the working of a less efficient body than the current one, will use more of the fund, and leave less for distribution to the authors themselves; if the PLR fund is insufficient to meet current and future commitments then the remedy is to increase the fund, not waste money on transferring the PLR scheme.
It is a stated aim of DCMS to keep cultural funding independent of political interference, but to subsume the functions of the PLR Registrar in a government department would open the PLR system to just such interference. To hand the functions of the PLR Registrar over to another non-governmental body with no experience of the scheme would, on the other hand, be expensive and pointless.
In the cause of supporting professional authors, I would also urge that PLR payments are introduced for e-books and audio books, which are an ever-increasing proportion of overall loans.