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Monday, 10 March 2014

'Two distinct races'

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) had a few things to say about borrowing.

‘The human species, according to the best theory I can form of it, is composed of two distinct races, the men who borrow, and the men who lend.’ – The Two Races of Men

‘I mean you borrowers of books – those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes. – The Two Races of Men.

I believe that there are readers who buy books and readers who borrow. [We’ll ignore those people who borrow books from us but never return them…] There are plenty of reasons why readers borrow – cost and storage space being just two. I may have a collection of about 4,000 books, but in my lifetime I’ve read thousands more. Space precludes storing so many. I’ve borrowed from the public library when I couldn’t afford to buy sufficient books to read; and of course pre-Internet, I delved into the non-fiction shelves for research. Like most generalisations, I’m sure this separation into two types of book readers will fall down under close scrutiny, but I feel that it has a grain of truth in it. Until relatively recent times, authors received no payment for books borrowed from libraries.

It seems only fair that authors should benefit in some small measure from institutional borrowing of their work. Twenty-eight countries have a Public Lending Right programme. The first was implemented in Denmark in 1946; the UK’s PLR was enacted in 1979.

As a resident of the EU (UK citizen living in Spain), I am able to take advantage of the PLR system applied to libraries in the UK and Eire. It is a welcome annual event, receiving notification of the pecuniary reward (taxable) along with the number of borrowers for my registered books.

Registered authors are eligible for payment if their PLR earnings reach a minimum of £1. The rate per loan is currently 6.2 pence [and for foreign readers who may not be aware, there are 100 pence in the £]. There is an upper limit for any author, £6,600. Last month, PLR made payments totalling £6.1 million to 22,327 authors. It is funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport through the British Library. Writers can register online. A book has to be registered by 30 June to be eligible for assessment in the following January.

To read the rules about registration, please go to the website

A list of the hundred most borrowed titles included James Patterson fifteen times; needless to say, he was the most borrowed fiction author (for the seventh year running); Nora Roberts dropped from fourth place last year to sixth; M.C. Beaton was seventh and tenth was David Baldacci (previously eighteenth). Lee Child had the two top most borrowed titles; J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy was the tenth most borrowed title, well beaten by Fifty Shades of Grey (third).
The top twenty of the 100 most-borrowed books in Scotland are all crime novels.
Top non-fiction author was cookery expert Mary Berry.
The full list can be found on the website.
Last year my books (penname Ross Morton) were borrowed 5,464 times from the UK libraries. That’s a great feeling, to know that that number of people have read my novels.
Since its publication in 2007, my first novel Death at Bethesda Falls has been borrowed 8,709 times.
My most-borrowed title is The $300 Man.
If you can't borrow it, please purchased post-free world-wide from here

So, I must go against the advice of Shakespeare, in Hamlet: ‘… neither a borrower, nor a lender be…’ (I know, he was talking about money, rather than books!)


Nancy Jardine said...

Very interesting, Nik. I have personally ensured at least 2 copies of each of my novels are available in Aberdeenshire Libraries by donating those copies. I believe a few more have been purchased but I've not thought to register myself. I think I'd best be checking out that site! Thank you.

Nik said...

Thanks, Nancy. I register my books, even if it's unlikely that the publisher is able to get them accepting for library circulation. You never know! [Of course, library funding is a big issue...]