Children's Author Terry Deary Says Libraries are Bleeding Writers and Publishers, Calls For Their End

Terry Deary is a jerk

Terry Deary, author of the beloved children's books Horrible Histories, recently added his voice to a debate in the UK over whether to close library branches to save money. But unlike writers like Lee Hall, Lee Child, and Philip Pullman, amongst others, who have vehemently opposed all closures, Deary spoke in favor of the proposal.

Deary went on quite the rant to the Guardian about his views. And I quote:

'I'm not attacking libraries, I'm attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,' Deary [said], pointing out that the original Public Libraries Act, which gave rise to the first free public libraries in the UK, was passed in 1850. 'Because it's been 150 years, we've got this idea that we've got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.'

He follows this snobby, elitist rhetoric with much of the same. "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."

This despite the fact all books available at libraries were purchased from the publisher, resulting in a royalty check for the author. Furthermore, Deary has actually made money every time one of his books were borrowed. The Public Lending Right grants authors 6.2p every time a citizen checks out one of their books, with an income cap of £6,600. Deary's titles were checked out 500,000 times during 2011 and 2012, making him one of the most popular library authors. Yet this isn't enough for Deary. "If I sold the book I'd get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000."

He proceeds to accuse libraries of hurting the book industry, saying that bookstores have to suffer their very existence. He calls the drive to save libraries nothing more than "sentimentality," and marvels at the idea of giving books away for free, when other entertainment industries do no such thing, ignoring the fact that many libraries carry film and television DVDs, music CDs, and even vinyl records.

Since airing his views, Deary has received a slew of hate mail, and many fellow authors have attacked him on social media outlets. Neil Gaiman tweeted, "Selfish & stupid, shortsighted & sad. Mostly selfish." Ron Charles, fiction editor at the Washington Post and fellow tweet-enthusiast, wrote,"Can barely sleep I'm so worried abt Terry Deary scraping by. Is there somewhere I can send a can o' soup or mittens?"

If I haven't made it clear yet, I think this guy is a greedy jack-ass. He clearly doesn't understand how libraries actually work, nor the benefit to authors they offer, and at the end of the day all he cares about is his own wallet. And I mean, come on, libraries are hurting the book industry? They've been around for hundreds of years now. I think if libraries were a significant threat to book sales, they would have been closed a long time ago.

But maybe I'm wrong. Is there any validity to his views? I'd love to hear a solid, logical argument for library closure that didn't just involve, you know, me me me whaa whaa whaa gimme gimme gimme!

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ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig February 15, 2013 - 4:04pm

This is fairly ridiculous. I don't think there is much more to say. He's a greedy twat.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine February 15, 2013 - 4:06pm

What a dick!

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro February 15, 2013 - 4:13pm

If I ever get a book published, "Fuck off, Terry Deary" will be in the Acknowledgements. 

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works February 15, 2013 - 4:17pm

He's now the Dick Cheney of the literary world.

Haley's picture
Haley from Portland, Oregon is reading The Drowned Cities February 15, 2013 - 4:58pm

Um, I think the gentleman writer in question is mistaken, but there's no need to pile on with anger.

Libraries are the chief advocates for reading. Yes, they teach you to read in school, but they don't always invite you to love it. A library is always about love.

Which is why I won't respond with hate. (Full disclosure here, I am struggling to hold back a few snarky remarks about the guy. Must end this ... now... or I will snark...)


Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs February 15, 2013 - 5:20pm

His point about loss of sales is obvious. One library book only equals one sale until library patrons wear it out and the library has to buy a replacement. It's not like an author is a band that gets a little money whenever their song is played on the radio (assuming that happens. I could be wrong). I guess libraries have CD collections too, but they're not really known for them. Perhaps because all the ones that I've ever looked through were pretty bad. 

On the other hand, I love libraries, so fuck him. It would be awesome if libraries paid authors a tiny amount for each time their book gets checked out, but most can't afford it. It would be great if the government stopped spending our money on bullshit and gave libraries a cash infusion so they could do that.

Pride Rosenkranz's picture
Pride Rosenkranz February 15, 2013 - 5:28pm

But point being some people (not kids) But adults teens can NOT afford a 20$ book....we need to be Enabling people to read more and thats what what libaries are there for...This guy is just super Greedy and apparently doesn't want anyone to enjoy his books..Douche!

Terri Palmer's picture
Terri Palmer February 15, 2013 - 6:31pm

I like how he assumes that everyone who checks out his book would have bought the book if not for libraries, and so tries to translate library checkouts into an exact number of lost sales.

Also, we don't need libraries because we have public schools? So we should only use our tax dollars for reading if it's educational and "literary" and for children.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig February 15, 2013 - 9:54pm

I think the idea that one library borrow = one lost sale isn't based in reality, just like the idea that "compulsary education" makes literature accesible to lower income isn't exactly true, either.

If you're argument is "I disagree with libraries because I want MORE MONEY!" then I think you should be prepared for anger and backlash. If he's a writer, I think it's safe to assume he was a reader, which means that he either grew up with enough financial stability to buy books whenever he wanted, or he utilized a library. My local library is responsible for the vast majority of what I read growing up, I was beyond the stuff the school kept long before I graduated, and simply didn't have the funds to buy a new book every week or so (The books I owned were gifts or hand me downs).

I think libraries are essential, and in his case, he IS getting paid when someone borrows it. His complaint is that he should be paid more? I'd much rather make less money, but allow people from all walks of life the opportunity to read and connect with literature, than being stinking rich and not have libraries (not to mention, I think we'd see even fewer adult readers if we didn't have places for kids to fall in love with reading. Most people I know didn't fall in love with reading in their high school English class--they got their hands on a book outside of school, and realized it was fun, awesome, and amazing to read for pleasure).

Ray Richards's picture
Ray Richards from Michigan and Iowa is reading The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson February 16, 2013 - 1:30am

Libraries buy books. Hundreds of books. They not only have them for people to borrow but they back-up and catalog. If we lost libraries then there would be much fewer smaller, less popular titles saved and sold. 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 16, 2013 - 6:08pm

Evil marketing genius perhaps? 

Jean Michelle's picture
Jean Michelle from The wilds of Indiana.. is reading The Likeness February 16, 2013 - 6:19pm

This man writes books for Children? Who have soooo much discretionary income...

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb February 17, 2013 - 7:19am

I don't know how it works in the USA but in this country you can donate your unwanted books to charity shops and they sell them on to the public at cheap prices to raise their money, the author doesn't get a cut and there's no register of the sale of that book. Is this guy going to argue we should stop doing that too? How about we stop lending our friends books because we're giving them someone else's story for free? (As for the DVD comparrison and other entertainment, plenty of people effectively see films for free too by simply watching it at a friend's house or borrwing their copy.) Shall we take away the free book-swapping shelf in the staff canteen at my workplace because we're giving away people's writing for free?

Sure authors have to make a living, but it sounds like he makes a pretty good one in comparrison with most of us who will never quit our day jobs, and has become yet another victim of thinking that the more money he gets the more he believes he's worth in addition to it. If he really is into capitalism-by-writing then he obviously hasn't fully embraced the mentality anyway, because in that culture if you want more money YOU have to either up your game or change it instead of blaming your customers for their reluctance to spend money.  

And here's my favourite thought: if it's money he's worried about then this publicity will probably damage his sales anyway as many people who vehemently dislike what he's said could take the reaction of boycotting his books completely. What's better, some money or none?

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 18, 2013 - 10:37am

This man is clearly a greedy, selfish jerk. (Im trying NOT to be rude here but its REALLY difficult). I fell in love with books at the library, I fell in love with writing at the library. A lovely 8 yr old I know just got his first library card and wore it on a string around his neck for a WEEK he was so proud. He adores the library. To say that libraries are stealing money from authors is ludicrous. Everything this man says is ridiculous and he should be ashamed of himself for being so greedy.

Banz's picture
Banz from Brisbane is reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman February 19, 2013 - 1:07pm

Another thing he fails to realise is that access to free books (libraries, book exchanges, loans from friends) will generate sales for authors.  At least it has done in my case.  There are dozens of authors whose work I have tried for free, found that I liked and then gone on to buy more of their books.

Without the first free read I probably wouldn't have taken the chance.

Haley and TheRidiculousWeimaraner make the great point that schools teach you how to read, comprehend and understand books but they fill a completely different space to libraries, which are about wanting and loving to read books.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut February 22, 2013 - 8:36am

I don't write for money. I write because there is a message to convey. Fuck this guy.