Terry Deary has been the subject of much criticism for breaking ranks with fellow authors and suggesting that libraries have had their day. His comments were originally reported in brief in the local Sunderland press. Here, in this Guardian piece by Alison Flood, he expands on them, and makes it clear that not only should libraries be protected, they should be the subject of closure notices by authors anxious to protect their incomes. It's an interesting proposition - made vivid by his analogy with the car industry - and one that he will hopefully be happy to debate with someone such as Alan Gibbons. Come on, Newsnight, book them both up for a head to head!
Bookshops are closing down, he said, "because someone is giving away the product they are trying to sell. What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly? The car industry would collapse if we went to car libraries for free use of Porsches ... Librarians are lovely people and libraries are lovely places, but they are damaging the book industry. They are putting bookshops out of business, and I'm afraid we have to look at what place they have in the 21st century."
Deary is calling for a public debate around libraries, and for an end to the "sentimentality" he believes has framed the issue so far. "Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?" he asked. "We can't give everything away under the public purse. Books are part of the entertainment industry. Literature has been something elite, but it is not any more. This is not the Roman empire, where we give away free bread and circuses to the masses. People expect to pay for entertainment. They might object to TV licences, but they understand they have to do it. But because libraries have been around for so long, people have this idea that books should be freely available to all. I'm afraid those days are past. Libraries cost a vast amount ... and the council tax payers are paying a lot of money to subsidise them, when they are used by an ever-diminishing amount of people."