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For the love of a good library

This week, discussions about piracy have been rife in many forums. The usual - Piracy is theft, rebutted by the notion that downloading free pdfs of my books isn't stealing, but doing me a favour. I'll not get into that here but talk about something else that's been mentioned as a validation of pirating: getting free books from libraries is the same thing. The reader doesn't pay there, either!

First, let's be clear on something. The consumer might not pay to borrow the book - but the library do pay the author. In the UK they pay both by buying the book and a small amount when the book is loaned out. In other countries, it may only be the sale that is paid for - but that is still a sale.

I use libraries from both sides of the coin.I read voraciously, as most writers do, and I prefer my books to come from trees. So I use my library. My kids use the library. I like my library - it's a nice, bright clean space with friendly people who like books working there. It's small and it's safe. It even has the internet and a loo. What's not to like?

As a writer, my local library stocks my books. They allowed me to use their space for the launch of Waters and the Wild, free of charge, without taking 40% of the cover price from me as a bookstore would (on a good day - some take 50%). Another is bringing me down to their reading group. Not only will I get to chat to readers but that library will get a few copies in for people to borrow.

In libraries, I pick up different books than I would buy. When I'm purchasing, I rarely buy on impulse but because something has drawn me to that book. A writer I already like is the most likely reason. A series I'm already invested in. At more than a tenner for a paper book I like to know I'm investing in something I really want.

But that doesn't support emerging writers. And it leads to a narrow reading field, which I never think is a great thing in a writer. That support of emerging authors can come from four directions, for me:

1. Buy and read the kindle book. Now, I do have a myriad of author friends to apologise wholeheartedly to here. I have more than likely bought your kindle book (esp if you had it on offer - buying on a 99p week is a good thing for the author as they'll still keep a good proportion of that and it bumps them up the charts on a week when they have a better chance of visibility). I have a whole load of kindle books. But I hate reading on kindle. I've tried it on apps, on a kindle, on the ipad and I actively loathe reading books for pleasure using the e-vehicle. I need the touch of a book to get immersed for whatever reason (probably to do with where I sit on the VAK inventory of sensory input, but let's not bore everyone silly on that.)

So, frankly, whilst kindle books can be a support to my fellow authors, it's unlikely to be the thing that gets me reading. Since I also won't review any book I haven't read, it also means I'm not the best support there, either. (And I don't post Amazon reviews anymore anyway due to their rules about cross-reviewing which means I put the other author, as well as myself, at risk).

So, for me, kindle books are a limited means of finding newer voices, or supporting those I do know about. For other readers, they're the key means.

2. Ordering books from my local library. This is really helpful for any author. If you can't afford to buy and support them - and we don't expect people to, and totally understand. I have no way at all that I can buy all the books my friends write. Not if I want to eat. - then go and order one. If enough people do, the library will buy in. Maybe more than one copy. Hooray! My cup of coffee for the week is achieved.

3. Spreading word of mouth. This I do better than reviews. Sharing on facebook and twitter, calling out, recommending on forums. Writer friends, even if you haven't seen a review from me, you might well have had a call out. Because there I can honestly say - haven't read this yet but heard great things about it, and it's all honest and above board and spreads that word of mouth that's so much needed.

4. Pick up a copy from my library or charity shop.  (I also buy second hand books to sample new authors and, no, the author doesn't get paid for that copy. But I don't stick it up on the internet where thousands of people can read it, too, for free. I read it once, like it or not, pass it on and, if I loved it, go and buy something else by that author more than likely.)

So, here's a quick list of some of the books I've loaned/bought and what happened from there

Stewart Foster - We Used to be Kings. I adored this book and this writer. I left a Goodreads review. I've mentioned it in several places. I intend to buy his current book as soon as I get around to ordering it from my friendly local bookseller.

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Children of Time. Also loved. Also hoping to get Adrian's books (although might leave it to a convention and try to get them signed.)

Chris Beckett - Dark Eden. Loved this. Bought the next two books. Bought a small publisher's beautiful limited collection of his short work. Called this out everywhere. The recommends definitely got some people trying the trilogy.

Jodi Taylor - St Mary's Chronicles. Bought book one for 99p (wanted to try it for a while, but not on kindle, see above), bought the next 8 books, one after another, at full price. And a couple of short stories while I was at it.

Robert Galbraith - book one from a charity shop. Bought the rest of the series. Will buy book 4 on release day. Loved it, called it out.

Etc etc etc.

Does a single one of those authors regret that I got my first sample of them from a library or second hand (if I ever see any of mine second hand, I'll sign them like a secret agent as a bonus)? No, not at all. Do the other 40 authors I've picked up and tried and not been blown away by care that I tried them for free? Not at all. We all know our writing can't appeal to every reader - but the more who try us, the more chance of that alchemy we have.

What an author objects to is when the person tries the book for free, then downloads the next and the next, and reads a nine book series without providing any recompense. To write nine books takes the average author at least 5-6 years. For some, it'll be longer. When you buy a book, the author will be lucky to see more than a quid or two for that sale. We really are talking cup of coffee money.

If you want your books for free, that's cool. I like some of mine for free and I think there is a place for free reading to expand into new authors and books. But at least choose a free method that supports the creator back. Libraries do ebooks, paper books, magazines, the lot. And the final bonus? Supporting libraries supports authors. See above. Launches. Book clubs. Books on shelves. Reccommends. Future readers.

So instead of hitting the pdf download, why not wander along to your library - before they all end up closed - and look to see what they have, first? (Note to anyone who thinks I'm a naïve idiot, I know this isn't going to happen...)

If anyone wants to have a look at my books they're here: Or in the N Ireland library system. And the UK system, thanks to people ordering them. Or, indeed, on a variety of pirating sites free of charge. Who needs coffee, anyhow?