Bestselling Author Of Children's Books Accuses Public Libraries Of Stealing His Paychecks

from the have-denis-leary's-'asshole-song'-stuck-in-my-head-for-some-reason dept

Maybe there’s a scientific explanation for the sort of behavior that leads normally beloved people to suddenly veer into previously unexplored areas of misanthropy and jettison all the goodwill they’ve built up over a lifetime. It’s not necessarily just a case of “old men yelling at clouds.” The subject of this piece isn’t necessarily old (although, I admit I keep moving those particular goalposts with each passing birthday) or incoherent. He’s just… so horribly, awfully, completely wrong.

Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories line of children’s books, has a problem with libraries. Perhaps urged on by UK Publisher’s Association’s collective mental breakdown (libraries = “tawdry theft”) early last year, Deary has joined the not-really-all-that-large number of voices decrying the existence of libraries and the countless free books contained therein.

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant.”

Let’s stop right there for a moment. When you’ve read the next few paragraphs, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that Deary is attacking libraries. I just want to let you know that you are not crazy. When someone attacks the underlying concept of something, very rarely does that something escaped unscathed. There’s a reason for this. Let’s use a metaphor to explain Deary’s oxymoronic statement:

Underlying concepts are like the foundation of a house, and when someone like Deary attacks this house’s “foundation,” he’s going to sound like the sort of person that, for the good of humanity, should have several filters installed between his brainstem and his mouth. All clear?

Good. Let’s proceed.

[I]t’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.

Well, there’s a lot of offensive stuff in there, almost enough of it to crowd out the ignorant stuff. “Entitlement to read books for free.” To tell you the truth, I barely noticed that “entitlement” because it was immediately overshadowed by the author’s entitlement. Who do you think it is that grants you the “entitlement” to earn money for writing books? Copyright is granted — it’s not something that has always existed and will always exist.

I’m particularly amazed (and not in the good way) that you feel “impoverished” people should be happy with whatever the school system manages to stock in its library. God forbid the poor get more than the bare minimum the “council tax payers” provide. They’ve got survival concerns that outweigh your “giving away a book or two” concerns, Deary. So, they want to read a bestseller while it’s still on the list. Fuck them, right? Sorry about your dwindling royalties and all, but couldn’t you at least have picked a more socially acceptable target, like Amazon or piracy or literacy rates or something?

And what about all the other books in the library that aren’t children’s fiction written by Terry Deary? Should these societal leeches purchase their own sets of reference books as well? I’m sure much more time and money went into crafting the Encylopaedia Brittanica and yet, these freeloaders are in the library, not paying for all this information. Should they just be pointed in the direction of the internet, another service most libraries provide? And what if they don’t have that service at home? A closed library doesn’t do the “impoverished” much good at all.

Please… continue.

“People have to make the choice to buy books.”

No, they don’t, Terry. Not if there’s an option, and certainly not if they can only afford the free option. If you think shutting down libraries will force everyone to start buying books (especially yours), then go ahead and grab a seat on the FAILboat crowded with content industry members that think shutting down piracy will force people to start buying their offerings. It’s going to be a long, angry ride to a very disappointing destination.

“People will happily buy a cinema ticket to see Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and expect to get the book for free.”

I’ve got some bad news for you and your shipmates, Terry: the library lends out movies as well. Audiobooks. Video games. CDs. And yet you think this is all about how you’re losing out on one more royalty every time someone uses their library card.

“Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby.”

Nice. A slam against middle-class women and hobby writers, both of whom deserve no respect and for nothing good to happen to them.

Well, that’s probably all we need to hear from this author. It’s enough to bury him alrea—

“The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?”

Really? Plenty of people get TV for free. I know everyone pays a license fee back in your homeland, Deary, but that’s because it’s a public service broadcaster. Over here in the US, advertising pays for our free TV. Even with the surcharge, the effective amount paid (per person) per hour of broadcasting falls well below the 6.2p per lend royalty that has Deary so upset. Or maybe you’ve heard of this little thing called radio? Music, talk, sports, religion — all free.

YouTube — free. (Oh, but the internet connection costs money, I hear you argue, as if that were even remotely a legitimate counterpoint. Sure, you need an internet connection to reach YouTube, but it’s hardly the only site on the web. To make Deary’s rhetorical question work, we have to pretend YouTube’s offerings are the only content in demand on the internet and that YouTube would much rather sell DVDs than allow people to watch for “free.”) And, as mentioned before, libraries are diversifying their offerings, so there’s many more forms of entertainment people can expect to get for free.

There’s also this:

“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.”

First is was Barnes & Noble crowding out the indie bookstores. Then it was Amazon, crowding out B&N and the indie bookstores. Now, it’s libraries, destroying bookstores in their glacially-paced (150 years+) quest to dismantle the publishing industry and undermine their own existence at the same time. And, for no apparent reason, there’s our good friend “The Car Metaphor” thrown into the mix.

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.”

Literature used to be “elite.” Now, they’re simply “entertainment,” and apparently should be sold as such. No freebies. And there’s that ugly undercurrent of resentment aimed at the “masses,” most of whom are presumably too “impoverished” to be considered part of Deary’s society.

“People expect to pay for entertainment.”

Do they? I doubt it. Again: radio, TV, YouTube, etc. You can’t even keep your story straight. First, they “expect” to pay for a movie ticket. Then they “expect” to read the book the movie was based on for free. Your views on what the “common man” expects or doesn’t expect seem to be based on whichever strawman you’re currently trying to erect.

So, which is it, Deary? Are the people expecting to pay and the library system keeps letting them down? Or do they expect it for free, but find they can’t enjoy it with all the whinging battering at their ears (and eyes, in this case)?

Here’s the worst part and it goes unstated by Deary, who clearly wishes that no one ever purchase a book of his again: show me an author who didn’t take great advantage of the library system during his or her formative years and I’ll show you a liar. Anyone who either makes a living writing or at least makes a serious attempt has spent years voraciously devouring anything they could get their hands on. That’s how writers develop. And there is no way in hell that Deary purchased every single book he read on his way to becoming a successful author. None. At all.

Considering how many lives the library system has enhanced and enriched, the complaint of an author bemoaning the “loss” of £180,000 hardly registers against libraries’ priceless contribution to society. Too bad for Deary that his ill-advised rant will result in the “loss” of even more royalties as discerning consumers (and fans of libraries) start putting their money in the pockets of other authors — ones who share the same respect and love for this so-called “outdated” institution.

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Comments on “Bestselling Author Of Children's Books Accuses Public Libraries Of Stealing His Paychecks”

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Jay (profile) says:


It takes a lot of nerve to sit down and attack the public as a writer…

Particularly one that uses history in a subversive manner.

“I don’t want to write history,” he says, firmly. “I’m not a historian, and I wouldn’t want to be. I want to change the world. Attack the elite. Overturn the hierarchy. Look at my stories and you’ll notice that the villains are always, always, those in power. The heroes are the little people. I hate the establishment. Always have, always will.”

It’s funny but once he becomes the establishment, he chooses to declare class warfare on the public. He used the history of the Tudors, Cleopatra, and the Victorian era to get famous and rich, now he wants to prevent the next generation from making anything that builds off his work.

This is the power of censorship… You have a person willing to brazenly attack the public even in a marketing gimmick to sell a few more books thanks to the controversy. You can attack an institution that benefits people with no profit motive who work diligently to archive information, ensure the preservation of culture, and fight very hard to make our stockist just that more equal.

Because if we had no historians, how would he have gotten rich in the first place? Someone had to teach this contrarian asshole in the first place!

Yet, this is the endgoal of copyright, as naked as a jaybird… The ability to control dissemination of information by destroying public goods and services for the private benefit of a select few.

Maybe Deary can do us all a favor and invest in a Horrible History of the Dark Ages and how the Spanish Inquisition worked to sniff out those that would preserve culture, and change society for the better, in a horrid witch hunt many to preserve the status quo over actual progress.

Or maybe the next time he wants to fight the establishment, he shouldn’t come off as a grumpy old Luddite, interested in his bottom line over the betterment of society.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Moxy

We need a Website which puts together a List of all those who would Attack the Public Library !!!
You Attack The Library……….which have been Institutions of Learning for Thousands of Years.The First Libraries were created in our First Civilizations.
You Money Grubbing Copyright Maximalists can go to Hell !

Yes, We need to know who are the people and Businesses who would attack Libraries ! I want to know this information and I am sure many others would want to.

Rikuo (profile) says:

I don’t often write letters, in fact it’s been years since I’ve done so, but I’m gonna write one to this miserable bastard. I read his books as a kid, I loved the Horrible Histories and yes I read them for free through libraries. I simply would not have been able to buy them, given that I came from a poor family.
I highly doubt that he remembers that the libraries actually do purchase copies of his books. He still gets paid.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The TV show made from his books is one of the most popular comedy shows currently on television, and the only “kids” TV show ever to win a British comedy award in the general category. So taking his books off the shelf won’t deny him publicity.

Besides, it’s school libraries which are the biggest offenders. Those are the ones he would really have to shut down.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And the best part is, he could play himself in the sketch.

For balance, here’s the reply from Julia Donaldson, third-most borrowed author from UK libraries last year. Choice quote:

In reality, libraries are the places where our readers and book-buyers are created. Without the huge choice of books which libraries provide, children are not going to discover their favourite authors, and will not then be asking for books for their birthdays or buying them when they are adults with their own money. […] One of my sons found Horrible Histories in the library, and I used to buy them for his birthday. I would never have found them without the library, so I think library borrowing definitely contributes to sales.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually the government pays on behalf of the libraries – it does not affect the library’s finances directly.

Also it is calculated by sampling a small number of large libraries – so, as with all these schemes – small authors lose out and almost all the money goes to a few rich ones who arguably have no need of it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure that follows.
The scheme pays out on the average loans of a title and is capped. Larger libraries will carry larger selections so smaller authors should have a better chance of being rewarded than than if small libraries were used who wouldn’t necessarily stock as many titles.
It’s a very fair system

Anonymous Coward says:

Another day, another Harlan Ellison…wait…I meant parasite that can kiss my ass.


“had no choice but to agree with the settlement. Of course there was a gag order as well, so I couldn’t tell this story, but now I frankly don’t care. It’s the truth. Harlan Ellison is a parasite who can kiss my ass.”

– James Cameron

PaulT (profile) says:

“What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?”

Yeah… That’s really all you need to know about how clueless he is. What next, he’s going to attack sharing his books among siblings because he doesn’t get a cut when your sister reads your copy? I at least fully expect a mental breakdown when he find that most towns in the UK have numerous charity shops and second hand stores where his books can also be obtained without him getting a cut.

Oh, and you know what children consumed for free? The TV series based on his books that played on free-to-air TV channels. The latest of which was made for CBBC – a free channel paid for by taxes. His argument is so moronic, he can’t even keep track of the way he sold his own products.

“we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of… council tax payers.”

Newflash, moron – some of those tax payers are exactly the same damn people whose children are borrowing books.

“People will happily buy a cinema ticket to see Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and expect to get the book for free.”

Or… they’ll watch the movie for free on TV and buy the book! My god, it’s like there’s a choice when some moron isn’t trying to control the market!

“Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby.”

I wonder if Blyton’s books have outgrossed his over the years? Maybe he’s just pissy because he chose a career that middle-aged hobbyists can do just as well as he can?

Oh… (from Wikipedia):

Horrible Histories: “As of 2011 with more than 60 titles in the series, the books have sold over 25 million copies in over 30 languages”

Enid Blyton: “Blyton’s books have sold more than 600 million copies.[22] From 2000 to 2010, she was still listed as a Top Ten author, selling 7,910,758 copies (worth ?31.2m) in the UK alone”

In other words, another greedy idiot who hasn’t stumbled across the pile of riches he assumed he’d be sitting on top of and so wants to pretend people who enjoy his work without a ransom are doing something wrong. I wonder how many library books he borrowed as a child?

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

Ever notice how it’s these extremely wealthy people and mega-corporations who whine the loudest about how the public is supposedly robbing them of potential earnings? This author sold over 25 MILLION books yet acts as if he’s going broke. As usual, blame the people — or in this instance, that haven of taxpayer-funded robber barons hiding in plain sight: the public library.

These parasites will never be satisfied until they have full control over every scrap of information and culture. But even if they had possession of everything on the planet, they’d still be miserable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Once they have control over every scrap of information, they would fight amongst themselves until only one remained. That corporation would break up when the person who achieved this ceased to be involved, then fighting would resume. See the examples of Genghis Khan and Alexander the great, the corporate bosses are no different, just using commerce rather than war as their chosen battlefield.

Richard (profile) says:

Google book search

On a related issue I watched a BBC programme last night about the diispute between Google and the Author’s Guild.

I was amazed at one fact:

The deal between Google and the guild would have netted several million for the lawyers and bureaucrats – but each author would get just $60 per book!

Think about it – if you, as a struggling author, were asked by your publisher to pony up $60 for “promotional costs” you would probably pay up (out of your “advance”) without a second thought. The publicity Google would have provided would have been worth far more than that.

The only conclusion is that the guild was quite happy to shaft the actual authors in order to preserve, expand and maintain its organisational role.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Google book search

The deal between Google and the guild would have netted several million for the lawyers and bureaucrats – but each author would get just $60 per book!

Typically this is because in a class action suit, the lawyers fund the litigation out of their own pocket, and at their own risk, in exchange for a percentage of the award — if there is one. Usually the fee is capped at around 30% or so.

Of course, the decision as to how to finance the suit is entirely up to the client. The client could instead pay a flat fee for the time of the legal staff, shouldering the risk of a loss too.

But since its a class action, and there are a lot of members of the class, and relatively few attorneys, cutting out the contingency fee would merely result in the authors getting about $90 per book. Not a huge improvement and they need to pony up many thousands or even millions in fees in advance.

While there are certainly problems with contingency fees and class actions, I’ve yet to hear of a good solution that doesn’t involve lawyers working for free or legal fees being paid by some wealthy, charitable entity for no good reason. Feel free to propose something, though.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Google book search

Sorry – I didn’t quote the full breakdown – however I wasn’t trying to say that the lawyers scooped most of the money (they didn’t – it was of the orser of 50-50) – rather that a sum of money that represented a tidy sum for the bureaucrats and lawyers was laughable when spread amongst the authors.

Even if ALL of the money had gone to the authors it would still have been much less than $200 per book. However as a mechanism for the authors guild to maintain its “importance” it has been quite successful.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: Re: Google book search

Class actions, like all litigation, are first and foremost mechanisms for putting money in the pockets of lawyers. Any other purpose is always entirely secondary, if not incidental.

Okay, so what form of dispute resolution would you prefer? A system of municipal thunderdomes? Trial by ordeal? Please enlighten us.

Andy (profile) says:

This man is clearly delusional

Taking a look at his own website provides much interesting information about his rather broken thought processes:

For example, on the “contact Terry Deary” page there is an FAQ which shows his incredible arrogance:

“Where do you get your ideas?
I’m a writer. It’s my job. I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to “get” ideas. They are already in my head.”

Note that he aslo has a low opinion of schools:

“I detest schools with a passion. I’d rather cut off my left arm and eat it with Marmite than go into a school. And I don’t even like Marmite. Schools are an utter waste of young life. Learning things that will never be any use to you. The only reason they are there is to keep kids off the street.”

While I may have reservations about the public school system per se, I find this somewhat extreme to say the least.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: This man is clearly delusional

From the Wikipedia page on him, he elaborates:

“Everything I learned after 11 was a waste of time. Trigonometry, Boyle’s law: it’s never been of any use to me”

I wonder if someone did a survey of the people he went to school with, if they’d find that many of his classmates went on to careers where knowledge of those subjects were vital. That perhaps fellow students were inspired to follow their future careers by early introduction to maths and science in the very lessons he ignored?

Guess what, Deary? I also hated some classes at school – drama, history, literature. While I’ve come to love some of those subject in the meantime, should kids like him not be taught those subjects because my chosen career path didn’t require me to know the timeline of the monarchy I had to slog through as a child?

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: This man is clearly delusional

Where do you get your ideas? I’m a writer. It’s my job. I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to “get” ideas. They are already in my head.
And the follow-up question: So you’ve never watched any films or TV, never listened to music, and have never read anything? If so, how do you write? After all, learning to read comes before learning to write, and learning to read involves actually reading things.
While I may have reservations about the public school system per se, I find this somewhat extreme to say the least.
For the sake of clarity, you might want to phrase that ‘publicly-funded school system’. Public school in the UK is very different to public school in the US, after all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No

Rental car service and Libraries are a valid comparison. In both cases, the item is legally purchased from the Publisher/Manufacturer. In the case of libraries, each time the book is borrowed, the borrower does not pay directly, but the publisher is also not paid again and again. With renal cars, each time the car is rented, the renter does pay the rental car company, but none of that money goes to the manufacturer. The end result in payment to the original producer is the same, neither publisher nor manufacturer gets paid for each use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fatal flaw

The concept behind libraries is the same concept behind copyright in that both are supposed to be for the benefit of the PUBLIC. He is right about one thing, literature isn’t just for the elite anymore. We as a society LONG AGO decided that educating the masses, regardless of class and financial status, was an important goal. In order to accomplish that goal, the barriers to access of information have to be overcome. Libraries serve this purpose. To attack the concept behind libraries is to say that we need elitism and uneducated masses and that we should return to the Dark Ages, and feudalism. Yeah, that’s a really enlighten perspective he has there. Way to go in standing up for the little people.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You missed a few important points:

– Not everybody has access to the internet at home. Who provides it for those can’t afford it, enabling poor children access to the same educational resources as their wealthier peers outside of school? Libraries.

– Libraries are used for many more things than just storing books.

– Many libraries, especially larger ones may actually contain resources and experiences difficult or impossible to replicate online.

I see where you’re coming from, but I wholeheartedly disagree with your conclusion.

Zos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

my 4 year old can navigate kidzui games and learning videos, find youtube videos of his favorite shows and movies, taught himself to use a mouse when he was 2, and taught himself to read using the games available to him so that he could get to more content. he’s also better than me at world of goo and bad piggies i’d submit that you’re doing your daughter a serious disservice by forcing her to cling to an institution that won’t exist by the time she needs it.
My 6 year old’s even more impressive, and the 2 year old just picked out her first mouse at microcenter.
My kids will grow up digital natives, they’ll be learning to code as they learn to read. they will have the sum total of human knowledge at their fingetips, and every day of their lives they will learn, and learn how to find the information they need. your kid on the other hand will be making them a hamburger.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“your kid on the other hand will be making them a hamburger.”
Sorry your life turned out this way. Do you blame it on libraries and not having internet when you were a youngster?

My daughter, with any luck, will be not only making, but probably raising the animal to make it as well.

I think this is a good thing since most people can’t tell pork from beef or beef from horse or horseshit.

“Here in Canada, for many people, the library is their internet access point.

My daughter will learn how to use a library years before she is turned loose on the net.”
Sorry you took my comment as insulting and felt the need to respond in kind. Had you visited a library more often, your reading comprehension would have been vastly improved.

Have a great day!

izzitme101 (profile) says:

[I]t’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.

It isn’t the libraries he should be attacking in this case, its the schools. If schools taught everyone to read properly, then he might (not likely though) have a point.

Currently, as many as one-in-six pupils struggle to read when they leave primary school and one-in-10 boys aged 11 has a reading age no better than a seven-year-old. At the age of 14, six-in-10 white boys from the poorest backgrounds are still unable to read properly.

The article i found this on is 12 months old, but is the newest i could find right now, although this is just for the uk.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Everybody, email this son of a bitch, and post his replies here. Here’s my email, and then his very short reply.

“Dear Miser

I am a long-time fan of your Horrible Histories series of books. As a child, I came from a poor background. Buying books was a rare occurrence, restricted to Christmas and birthdays. Through my school and public libraries, I had access to your books for free, which helped cultivate in me a love of literature and history. For that, I do thank you.

Imagine my surprise when I saw on the Guardian website what I can only describe as the rantings of a greedy and selfish bastard.

?Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free? Yes, we do, its called the PUBLIC DOMAIN. That is what happens to all works of art after a certain amount of time has passed, they fall out of copyright and pass into the collective ownership of everybody. No-one will look twice at me if I read Shakespeare or John Milton for free. If it happens to be in physical form, what I am paying for from a bookshop is their physical copy. If its on my Kindle, I don?t have to pay ANYONE. Eventually your works too will pass into public domain and everybody will be able to read them for free.

?This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that? This is what sets my teeth grinding. The impoverish dirty masses should be happy with what their school provides? I happen to have once been part of that mass. Yet, what my school had available was miniscule compared to what the public library had.

?People have to make the choice to buy books. People will happily buy a cinema ticket to see Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and expect to get the book for free. It doesn’t make sense?

You?re right, that doesn?t make sense, in that that sentence doesn?t have ANY sense in it at all. Perhaps you?re a bit behind the times, but the movie version of Matilda was released in the year 1996. SEVENTEEN FUCKING YEARS AGO! Perhaps you should have seen it or read the book, the protagonist spends much of her childhood reading books for free in the library. Given what you write, I half expect you to be an admirer of Harry Wormwood. At no point in my life have I or anyone I know ever seen a movie and then walked out, and said to ourselves ?Yeah, I want to read the book, but it had better be for free?.

I wonder: have you realised yet that those copies of your books in libraries…those copies are PAID FOR ALREADY! That?s how people are able to read them for free: they are property of the library who then say ?”We own these, so we declare that you can borrow them for a set amount of time?. Are you now going to attack the older brother who lends his copy of a book to a younger sibling? My god, we had better stop that, you?re not being paid!

?Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat.? Yes, they need to eat, they need to earn a living, but not in a way that destroys the law and serves to enrich themselves alone at the expense of everybody else. If you find you can?t make a living within the law, then get the fuck out. You have no special entitlement to a living, only the right to attempt to earn one. If you fail…you fail. If you feel that your pay check depends on the destruction of libraries and the removal of the ability to read books for free…then you can get your sorry ass out of the country, because that is too high a price to pay from us to you.

?The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free??

Written like someone who doesn?t have the faintest idea of what marketing is. Perhaps the library has a limited budget from the local council, and so it can only get Book 1 of a series. Perhaps I read it, fall in love with it, want to read the rest, and see that Books 2 and 3 are in the bookshop. And again, you still get paid by the library for their copies.

?Bookshops are closing down, he said, “because someone is giving away the product they are trying to sell.?

If they are closing down, perhaps due to the rise of electronic reading devices such as the Kindle, its called progress. The horse buggy and whip industry collapsed once the automobile industry arrived. It had no special dispensation to exist, only what the market could bare. Bookshops existed for centuries as a way for people to buy works of literature. It was pretty much the only way to get them. Now, something new, something better, faster and more efficient has arrived that can do the job at a fraction of the cost. The market is inevitably going to turn more and more towards devices like the Kindle and away from paper books. Not just for ?Oh, I can copy the books for free!? reason. I vastly prefer to hold a physical book in my hand, but I, like many people, live in a small apartment. Space is at a premium, and I simply don?t have anywhere to store the thousands of books I?d prefer to buy. By necessity, I was forced to get a Kindle.

?Books are part of the entertainment industry. Literature has been something elite, but it is not any more.? That has to be the single most disgusting sentence you have ever written. What hope do the masses have of becoming the elite, of improving their status, if not through books? As I said earlier, I came from a poor background. I was rarely able to buy books, even when I wanted to. Yet, it was through the library I was able to enrich myself, to improve myself. Why is it that literature should be restricted to an elite few? Who decides what elite means?

In closing, I am going to recommend to my local public libraries to remove your books from their circulation. I will also be writing to the management of local book stores, to pull your books off the shelves. I will not be the only one. If you want your works in the hands of a few, fine. I will indulge your whims.

Yours sincerely,

A Now Former Fan”

And his reply…

“For an alternative view, expressed without your recourse to obscenities, go to:-

Monica says:

...and how do most people find your books?

I’m a public librarian. All I have to say about this man’s ridiculous claims is something one of our patrons told me a few years ago: “I need to stop going to the library, it’s costing me too much money!” She didn’t say this because of fines, but instead because she had just purchased yet another book, DVD, or CD that her children couldn’t live without. At Christmas or birthday times, It happens a lot — someone falls in love with something they’ve borrowed from the library and needs to have it for their own collection, or perhaps the newest title in the series. A lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise buy a book have done so for this very reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

If only there was a way to send a video back in time to this guy in the past as a young and upcoming writer. Him and so many of these other sobs who are addicted to money and can never get enough.
I know I would be devastated to know that I would become a greedy asshat with seemingly no regard for my fellow man.

So now we just need a TDTD (Temporal Data Transfer Device)… Oh yeah I forgot, it’s probably already patented by some troll who are just waiting for some poor inventor to sue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pity the poor Deary.
As a successful writer he pays a lot of income tax.
He also has to pay council tax.
The council then uses the money that they get from him and he gets from the sales of his books to fund libraries who let people read his books for nothing.
Not only do people get to read his books for free but he actually has to pay to have them read his books for free.
It would make me sad if I wasn’t laughing so hard.
If it wouldn’t be unfair to library users the perfect solution would be for the libraries to dump his books, so he would not get any payout from them and he might then focus on a likely drop in sales as his series name recognition fades out for the up and coming generation of young readers.

Trails (profile) says:

Dreary Dreary

Dreary’s post is by turns elitist and overwhelmingly selfish. I find it offensive that someone who can earn a living writing solely because of public literacy programs such as libraries wants to do away with them now that he’s selling in a (misguided) effort to increase his marginal returns. To build your career on the backs of such efforts and then to claim they’re no longer needed is hypocritical to say the least.

The cynical and profiteering mentality this entails is depressing. To look at the world today, to see the wealth gap, and hence opportunity gap, between “haves” and “have nots”, even in first world countries and to claim libraries are unneeded is callous to the point of inhuman, and I find it offensive.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Dreary Dreary

Excellent post. Simply put, if libraries are withholding earnings from Dreary then so too must they be withholding from bookshops. After over 100 years of libraries and bookshops coexisting, clearly this is not the case. Both are suffering losses due to the transition to digital, the key operative word being ‘transition’. Earnings haven’t evaporated into thin air, they’ve simply transitioned to the digital sphere. Nevertheless, there will always be those who prefer holding a tangible item over digital storage and that’s definitely a good thing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 150 Years? Really?

To be fair, I think he’s talking specifically about public libraries set up in the Victorian model in the UK with the specific purpose of providing free literacy resources to the general public.

At least I hope he is – I’d hate to think that a man who’s made his living teaching history to schoolchildren has never heard of the Library Of Alexandria, the Library Of Congress, the Guildhall Library or the British Museum library (among many others that predate that model).

Anonymous Coward says:

Public Opinion

Following his little rant, Terry Deary has been absolutely blistered in Britain by public comment, by other authors, by members of the media, and yes… by personal hate mail writers. There have even been petitions to remove his books from libraries.
The good result is that British lawmakers now have not the slightest doubt about where public opinion stands.

kenichi tanaka says:

Uh, somebody needs to desperately remind Deary that bookstores aren’t closing down because libraries loan out books for free. Bookstores are closing down because of poor executive management from the idiots who are running those bookstores.

Also, it’s a weak argument he is making that libraries are no longer needed, especially at a time when there are more than 20 million Americans out of work and that food stamp recipients in this country are at an all time high.

That One Guy (profile) says:


Truly there is no end to my utter contempt for such a greedy bastard who seems to have no problem with the idea of destroying a massively useful tool for public education and entertainment, one that doesn’t care how rich or poor someone is but is open for all.

I really hope the public backlash on this is large enough that his current publisher, and all future publishers he may try and get in contact with refuse to do business with him, even if that would still not be nearly as much as he deserves.

Anonymous Coward says:

In addition

I followed one of the links in comments above and found this (a response from Deary):

“Many children (like me) found libraries intimidating places full of old stock with old attitudes, wholly inappropriate to children growing up in the 1950s. But just because they were useful in the past doesn?t mean they have a God-given right to exist forever. The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace.”

Personally, that kind of thinking is quite illogical. It plays on two paradoxical concepts: that libraries are old fashioned (always have been) and they have become old fashioned (they were once useful).

That he plays on the stereotypical (that libraries are stodgy) indicates to me that he hasn’t set foot in a library in a long time. Even our very small local library devotes a significant space to non-print media.

My first thought on reading the headline is shared by Mr. Cushing in his entry — “Didn’t Mr. Deary ever use a library when he was young?” Of course the answer is obvious, even as Mr. Deary dihonestly states that everything he writes is only in his head.

If only he had kept his library dis in his head and not let it out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait, what? I loved the Horrible series when I was a kid. Still do. In fact, I first came across Nick Arnold’s Horrible Science – in a library – before going on to collect all the books. History, Science, Geography, Maths, the lot when I was 14. All paid for, I might add.

For shame, Terry. I still love your quotes such as “God made children happy. Teachers are paid to put a stop to that nonsense.” This is a major fail on your part, and this is coming from a longtime fan.

The Real Michael says:

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant.”

This is rich. After he used libraries to help establish himself, he now wants to deny that same privilege to other aspiring authors.

The real problem with his argument is that he construes authorship as some sort of guarantee to a paycheck, acting as though the public were responsible for his continued financial well-being. We’re not. In fact we don’t owe Deary a dime. He ought to be thankful that he’s made so much due to public support over the years. There are people who cannot afford food, shelter and clothing …meanwhile, this wealthy author’s got the audacity to moan and groan about libraries withholding paychecks from him. Boo-hoo. These are the kind of articles that make me sick the most, when elitists try to portray themselves as martyrs of a freeloading society.

Having your work on offer at a public library is not a zero-sum game. First, the library must purchase your work. Second, having your work on offer greatly increases awareness of your work, inevitably boosting sales. Third, the public is enriched by the sharing and increase of knowledge. Can Deary (or any author for that matter) provide hard evidence that if only his works weren’t available in a library or school that he’d be making more money? Not a chance.

DanZee (profile) says:

Affluent Suburb

Well, I can see his side a little. I always bought my reading for pleasure books while I used my school’s library and the public library for research, reports, and so forth. I also use to check out old sf books that were written mostly before I was born and were unavailable to buy. Neither library bought many best-sellers at the time, and if they did, it was only a copy or two and you had to put your name on a list and wait months or years to read it.

I now live in an affluent suburb and I see that instead of libraries being used for research, they mostly act to provide residents with a never-ending flow of bestselling books, CD and DVDs, and a huge lending library of kiddie books. The irony is that most of these folks make over $100k and could well afford to buy these books.

I think the mission of libraries have changed from research to providing free entertainment, which has helped to undermine bookstores, video rental outlets, etc.

Maybe libraries should not offer a book to lend until it’s been out for a year or two, giving authors an opportunity to earn some money for their efforts.

Libraries are a godsend for researchers because publishers can almost guarantee sales of 5,000 copies to the nation’s libraries and research books don’t sell much in bookstores. But to a bestselling author, sales of 5,000 copies means losses of $50,000 to the author or more ($1 a book) if each book is loaned out 10 times. (That’s a year’s pay for a lot of people!)

I don’t want to take away the special protection libraries have within our country, but I do think libraries are taking advantage of the loopholes available to them to try to maintain their relevancy during a time when the Internet has more information than all of the libraries in the entire world!


Re: A weak attempt at class warfare.

The irony is that most of these folks make over $100k and could well afford to buy these books.

That’s a stupid way to look at it. Forcing everyone to buy their own copy of some book they will likely only read once is just WASTEFUL. Beyond that, it is unecessary and limiting. Even those that are guilty of being “affluent” should not have their consumption of literature limited by money.

ANY one should be able to read as much as they want to.

Weak attempts at class warfare aren’t really relevant in this discussion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Affluent Suburb

But to a bestselling author, sales of 5,000 copies means losses of $50,000 to the author or more ($1 a book) if each book is loaned out 10 times.

Even if we were to grant your premise that libraries have shifted towards being primarily providers of free entertainment, it is a HUGE leap from there to equating each loan with a lost sale. In fact, books that are frequently borrowed are likely to be generating sales for those books and related ones. A large fraction of the books we buy for my daughter are either ones she fell in love with after reading from the library, or are in the same series.

And libraries have always had a major role in providing entertainment and stimulating imagination. Their inclusion of fiction, including children’s fiction, is hardly new.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Affluent Suburb

But to a bestselling author, sales of 5,000 copies means losses of $50,000 to the author or more ($1 a book) if each book is loaned out 10 times.

This is just a variation of the “every download is a lost sale” fallacy. The publisher didn’t lose anything by selling a book to a library, they made a sale. The fact that the library lends the book to others doesn’t cost them anything. If there were no libraries, I would guess there would be fewer readers and thus fewer people buying books, so publishers and authors would be making fewer sales, not more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Affluent Suburb

I think we could also fit in regional encoding, I mean my local library should be able to carry local authors for at least a year before any non-local libraries are allowed to carry them.

I’m sure this would increase the revenue generated by local authors in their home location, while driving non-local residents to flock to the local libraries to view some of the higher profile local authors who are not yet available in their home towns.

windowing, regional restrictions, wait, this may already be a patented business model for becoming irrelevant in the digital age, I’m sure they would get sued by the **AA’s for ‘infringing a patented business model for ruining a business’….

Young reader says:

Re: Affluent Suburb

I’m a rich kid from the affluent suburbs – and I could never afford to buy or to store the vast number of books that I have read and would like to read. I’m not a billionaire and I don’t own an enormous mansion, but I am an accidental speed-reader and that means I can read almost anything in an afternoon. If you stacked up all the books I’ve read in my lifetime, you could fill rooms. Literally. Floor to ceiling. The books my family and I do own fill a good-sized room with bookshelves and overflow into the rest of the house, as well as packing the attic with boxes – and that’s in our current house, not the much smaller house that we had when I was younger, and in and out of the library every week. In the end I read almost every book they had in every section I was interested in.

That’s where I learnt to dream, to write, to hope, to step outside my little world and into another, to look at things from the point of view of someone else, no matter how strange that person’s circumstances might be to me. That’s where I found and loved things that I wouldn’t have risked spending my money on from the back-of-book description in a shop. And all my favourites? I searched high and low to pick up my own, personal copies of those, so that I would always have them with me. Many of them aren’t even in print any more.

One of the things I regret most right now is that I rarely have time to go to the library at present. I can’t afford to buy many new books, either, and there’s no space in my house to put any new physical ones. (Actually, I have a Sony ereader now – it was the price of a few bookshelves, which left to myself I could and would fill in nothing flat, if it weren’t for those annoying necessities like paying rent and buying food. And it holds more books! Not that I can afford to buy anything like enough of them. 🙁 )

We would all be far, far poorer (metaphorically) if our libraries closed down. Many of my childhood memories centre around the library – and I wasn’t even poor.

mattshow (profile) says:

First, I’m curious as to what he thinks would happen if we just shut down all the libraries. Does he think everyone would then go to the bookstore to buy books? He is right, times have changed since the Victorian era, but not in the way he thinks.

Look at the prevailing trend. People rent out their apartments on AirBnB, their couches on CouchSurfer, their car through RelayRides, and all manner of other things through any number of other website. Wired was talking about this over two years ago in an article called “Rentalship is the New Ownership”: The Internet has made de-centralization not just possible but easy. If all the libraries just disappeared, how long until a book-sharing web site popped up? When you join, you submit a list of books you own, and when you’re looking for a book it will tell you who else in your area has that book and is willing to lend it to you. BookCrossing is already doing something similar to this. If libraries shut down, people wouldn’t flock to bookstores; they’d find a new way to borrow and share books.

Libraries provide many services beyond just the simple ability to borrow a book for free. All of these benefits would be lost if they were shut down, and it still wouldn’t achieve the result Terry Deary wants to achieve.

Second: about a year ago I took “Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, And How The Culture Business Can Fight Back” by Robert Levine out from the library, just to see what he had to say. Trying to be funny, I sent him a snarky tweet asking if taking the book out from the library instead of buying it made me an “analog pirate”. He responded to tell me that most authors supported libraries, because libraries buy books. So congrats Mr. Deary, even a guy who thought it was reasonable to include the words “digital parasites” in the title of his book thinks you’re too far out there.

Avedon (user link) says:

But - it means people are reading your books!

As an author, I take pleasure in being notified that I’ve earned some royalties off of people borrowing my books from libraries. Not because of the money (which isn’t much), but:

Wow, they’re still reading it! Even people who can’t afford to buy everything they read are going to the library and taking out my books! That’s great!

I doubt I would have made a penny off of those people if they hadn’t read my books in the library. The people who seem to have the most time for reading tend to be people who don’t earn much money. They aren’t going to buy my books when they could get a couple packs of fags or maybe even a nice meal out of that cash.

Meanwhile, the library bought the book (at full price!) and owns the physical object, and they can show it to anyone they like. It’s always been that way. And that’s a good thing. I’m amazed they pay me anything at all for that – after all, they paid for that book.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know the copyright system is broken when artists think they have total control and don’t give a damn about the public. Little piece of advice: leave that to the corporations and publishing companies.

“Artists have this idea that they’ve got an entitlement to control how their work is used (not just sold), at the expense of their fans, the public, and the public good.”

Fixed that.

Anonymous Coward says:

He's trying to be clever.

He’s trying to claim that he has a progressive perspective while exposing antiquated rhetoric. It’s kind of like the Content Cartels claiming they speak from the moral high ground when their actions are the antithesis of moral.

He’s implying that libraries aren’t worth their expense because they are obsolete and we have better more effective ways of accomplishing the goals that libraries are intended to serve. The only reason he makes this claim is to appear to be forward thinking. In reality he is just using that as an excuse to try to get rid of them and support his self serving agenda which is betrayed by the reasoning in the rest of his arguments which are quite the opposite of progressive.

Anonymous Coward says:

We are doing it all backwards.

What we really need is more incentives for providers to embrace open access to information of all kinds. Perhaps we need to offer tax breaks and/or subsidies for contributing to the public domain or releasing works with open access where the benefit to the company increases as the level of contribution increases. Perhaps instead of releasing a 301 naughty list, the USTR could release a list of top contributors to the public good every year. Instead of just fighting these people perhaps we need to make things such that it is obviously beneficial to them to embrace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We are doing it all backwards.

Perhaps we need to offer tax breaks and/or subsidies for contributing to the public domain or releasing works with open access

One huge problem with that idea, it would give politicians control over the works released into the public domain, or made open access. Whoever controls the purse strings controls what is made.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: We are doing it all backwards.

Not exactly. It depends on the implementation. What I was suggesting is that we could look at early contributions to the public domain in much the same way as contributions to charitable non-profit organizations such that a person or company would be able to take a tax deduction based on the contribution. I don’t see how that would give the government any control over it. All it would do is provide an incentive to contribute. The decision to contribute or not still resides solely with the holder, not the government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: We are doing it all backwards.

If it is based on voluntary contribution, how is it dealt with to prevent works being produced to gain the tax benefits or subsidy without adding any value to the public domain. Who decides on the value of the work.
Without some form of oversight, such a system would lead to production of works to gain the subsidy or tax break, without actually contributing anything of value to the public domain. Any provision of oversight becomes another target for regulatory capture, and a means of transferring more money to the rich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 We are doing it all backwards.

I see your point now however there is a simple way to handle this. First of all the public domain itself isn’t damaged by valueless works being contributed. It’s just valueless items don’t get used. Still who knows when something thought as valueless suddenly will become worth something. Who would have thought a William Hung musical performance would have had ANY monetary value yet somehow he sold 100,000 records.

So what I would propose is a two tiered system. First, a modest yearly standard deduction could be taken for contributing something to the public domain regardless of value. You cannot increase it by contributing more. However, if you want the bigger deduction, you have to prove justify it’s worth. Let’s say you are Disney and you suddenly want to get the tax break for contributing Mickey Mouse to the public domain, well, you simply have to submit a balance sheet showing the profits earned during the past year from it in order to calculate the size of deduction. Basically it’s similar to itemization.

Theoden says:

He has been hanging around libraries too long...

It turns out that, if you spend enough time around old books and decaying manuscripts in dank archives, you can start to hallucinate. Really. We’re not talking psychedelia, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” stuff, here. But maybe only a step or two away from that.

Anonymous Coward says:


After reading some more of his statements, (especially his statements on schools) I have to agree with one thing he says which may be the basis for where all of this comes from. Our schools have stopped teaching children to think for themselves which is bad. Our educational system has been largely co-opted to train people to be good little passive conformists instead of aggressive free thinkers. I don’t agree the answer is closing schools, but rather completely revamping the educational system. I don’t agree with his statements about the subjects being taught being worthless. A well rounded education IS valuable even if you don’t use that knowledge every day. But I see where he is coming from in his criticisms of the educational system. Which leads me to question, what is the first thing that needs to happen to affect change in this area? You have to motivate people to care about an issue enough to think about it and act. It’s something he obviously was successful doing with his books in motivating kids to embrace reading. Perhaps he is simply using his notoriety and making outrageous statements concerning things like advocating closing libraries and schools, in the press to motivate people to talk about them and care enough to think about them. I get the feeling that he cares very little about what anyone actually thinks of him but quite a bit about whether they actually think for themselves. Perhaps he is just trying to wake people up a bit. Perhaps.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Perhaps...

Ask yourself this. If you have a child that you have told to put his/her toys away when they are done playing with them or they will be taken away but still neglects to do so, what do you do to convey the importance of doing this to the child when you find that they have left their toys out? The answer is that you take them away – or at least make them THINK that you are. And what is usually the child’s response to such a threat? The child immediately goes to pick them up and put them away before you take them.

His actual position may be that libraries and schools are not serving their intended purpose because the population appears to be apathetic about them and take them for granted. So by publicly advocating getting rid of them altogether (and throwing in some old school rhetoric about lost sales for extra spice) could be just the thing to get people fired up and start supporting the schools and libraries again. He certainly isn’t a guy that’s afraid of a little controversy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Perhaps...

I seek leave to Godwin this line of thinking and point out that the Grinch probably only wanted the residents of who ville to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas and once they did he rewarded them by bringing all the gifts back.

I’ve forgotten something…
Oh yeah…. Its just like something Hitler would have done albeit in one of his less aggressive and less genocidal moments, like before he grew a Chaplin moustache.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Perhaps...

I’m not saying that it IS what he is doing. I’m saying it is POSSIBLE. He could very possibly believe every word that has come out of his mouth. And if so I would say he’s an idiot. But I don’t really get the feeling that he is that dumb. He also has a history of saying things that are outrageous and controversial. In fact some of those who apparently know him have indicated that this is “just Terry being Terry” which I take to mean that they don’t actually feel that he actually believes in all of the things he’s saying.

jay bee says:

Huh. I guess I am a leech. I didn't realize that.

I feel so bad now for using my local library as a resource and as a source for entertainment these past 40+ years.

After all, I was one of those who consumed the hobby-writer’s books (Blyton’s ‘Five’ and ‘Seven’ series) as well as myriad others — children’s books, westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, non-fiction, etc.) thus denying them their royalties for individual sales 🙁

I guess the *literally* thousands of paperbacks and hardcovers I’ve purchased over the years, the 4000+ comic books, the sundry miscellania related to those (games, toys, recordings) and the, again, *literally* hundreds of children’s books I purchased for my *own* kid don’t count.

Oh. Wait a moment. THEY DO! Had I not had the library there when I was a kid, I fear my love of reading would not have developed as it did. Had the library not been there all these years to let me *sample* and discover my favourite authors, their works wouldn’t be cluttering my bookshelves now.

To make a long diatribe short…. “TWIT!”


Crashoverride (profile) says:

Libraries can be used by a smart author almost like radio stations. Children’s books often become a favorite of children wanting the same book to be read to them week after week… thus a free introductory to a child can lead to future sales.

They can show off and promote a book and even create a following for the authors future works. An author can utilize the built in market of “book lovers” by touring libraries autographing books owned or purchased etc…

ckenneth says:

my attempt at trolling this guy.

Here is my e-mail correspondence with this guy, got him pretty upset.

From: []
Sent: 19 February 2013 19:20
Subject: How I enjoyed your books as a child

Hello Sir,

You are a complete and total ass. I read your books when I was younger and enjoyed them. I first discovered them at a public library when my mother took me. If I had not been exposed to public library’s when I was younger I would not have been able to read your books. My irritation and contempt for you and your pigheaded attitude is immeasurable. Fuck your books, Fuck your opinions and most of all FUCK YOU!. I have removed all books by you from my household and alerted all of my friends to never purchase or attend anything with your disgusting name attached to it.

-Have a nice fucking day.

His first reply:

On Feb 19, 2013, at 12:17 PM, “Twisted Tales” wrote:

I am not sure exactly what you have read of my views ? the media distorts and edits mercilessly while the US press has been positively mischievous in re-editing statements to mean something different ? when in fact the problems of the British library system are nothing to do with them! America land of the free and freedom of speech? No America of the McCarthy witch hunts and the attempts to censor JK Rowling because she offended a few Christian Fundamentalists. America, land of the obese, because they are so weighed down by their egos.

Maybe you could have a look at a supportive article such as :-

Fortunately you are in a minority and the support in Britain is much more intelligent.

?Although, I am a wanna-be librarian. I think there seems to be a sense of entitled to materials that are free. And you’re right why should artistic people have to give up making money over their art. We except for businesses. I do agree with you, libraries ought to rethink and redesign themselves. It’s been over 150 years. Can’t believe all the excitement you’ve started.?

Dear Mr Deary, Thank you for volunteering to be the scapegoat with regards to the ” should we get rid of all libraries ” debate. For some time now, all we tend to hear from authors is how important libraries are; how they have influenced their lives, their writing. How important Public libraries are for providing free access for those with low or no income, or who want to better themselves. How important School libraries are to children, to their discovery and enjoyment of reading, for experimenting with new authors without cost at point of access. All this chatter is ignored by the media as it is appears to be self serving. It takes an established author, someone like yourself, and who has nothing to lose to stir up the hornets nest to gain media attention, and initiate a lively debate. I thank you for that. Sarah Masters. MCILIP


I have just read what you say about libraries. Well done! It is about time some serious rational debate took place. I am the product of the library system. As a scruffy kid I delighted in not only the children’s library at the Harris museum in Preston but also the art gallery and museum exhibits. It was a wonderful entrance to a different world. Those days are over now in this digital when classic books are available for free online and new books available much more cheaply than in Victorian times. I repeat. A rational calm debate is long overdue. Regards. Gordon


and finally an author who articulates the REAL meaning of my words far better than I can ?

Now please do not let me delay you any further. I am sure your halo needs polishing.

Terry Deary

PS can you send me the name of your lawyer? Your obscenities WILL be reported to the police for action. Hopefully your computer will be confiscated and you will serve a short term in prison to cool off.

Oooh ouch: my next reply: yes i know about the spelling errors >.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here is the letter I sent him:

Mr. Deary,

After reading the article on (where I am an avid follower and frequent commenter) concerning your comments on libraries followed by some of the other sources of your comments on schools as well, I felt compelled to contact you and address some of the opinions you have expressed. First I would like to commend you on your candor and courage to speak out on issues of importance even when those positions are unpopular and/or controversial. I have long said that there are too many passively apathetic lemmings that are easily offended and not enough critics in the world. I greatly appreciate your past efforts to inspire young minds to think creatively and critically and applaud your successes in these efforts.

I too was disillusioned with the educational system at a young age and questioned the fallacies that I saw. I share your perspective that our educational system is broken in that it designed to produce good little conformers rather than critical free thinkers. Where I take issue with your perspective here is that the content being taught is not the issue but rather where our emphasis is placed in the process. Young minds are inspired and learn via exposure. It is not that these subjects are a waste of time. These are valuable tools that can be applied effectively applied and exposure to them is important in helping young minds make an educated decision about what they will choose to do with their future. There are also many times where concepts taught early on that are not utilized on a daily basis become very useful later in life. As an example, I not to long ago was faced with a problem via my employment that required the use of a couple of algebraic concepts that I hadn’t used since but still remembered from high school. We know not when these tools will be useful, just that they can be. The problem here as I see it is that too much focus is placed on the grade, diploma, degree, etc. instead of the acquisition of and the ability to apply the actual knowledge itself.

Concerning libraries, you are correct in one thing. Feudalism where literature was a privilege of the elite upper class is truly dead. We as a society LONG AGO decided that educating the masses, regardless of class and financial status, was an important goal for the good of the PUBLIC. In order to accomplish that goal, the barriers to access of information have to be overcome. Libraries as well as schools are there to serve this purpose. To “attack the concept behind libraries” is to say that we need elitism and uneducated masses and that we should return to the Dark Ages (not just the Victorian era). In the same way, the purpose of copyright was created where by creating a government granted monopoly for a limited time, the people are encouraged to create works for the benefit of the public good not the protection of obsolete Ludditism. If you truly “stand up for the little people”, why would you undermine this position in such a manner?

If however, your objective is to effectively light a fire under the apathetic asses of the general masses to inspire them to care about the importance of open access to information via libraries and schools, by leveraging your celebrity in making outrageous hyperbolic calls for the closing of both schools and libraries, in the same way that I threaten to take my 5 year-old daughter’s toys away when she doesn’t treat them properly to inspire her to respect them and act accordingly. I get that. However, wouldn’t it be better to use a more positive yet equally outrageous approach, and actively promote concepts of open access by publicly supporting groups that radically call for open access to information and publicly contributing to those causes against the corporate interests that pull the strings in government? How about radically donating some of your repertoire to the public domain in order to inspire others to do so for the benefit of the public as well?

Finally, I would like to invite you to join us in the discussion at as I think you will find the discussion spirited and intelligent.



PS. I have seen some of your responses to letters of others, as for your comments in them concerning colorful metaphors, there are no bad words, only bad intentions. Even these words have their place and can be very effective if used properly. I find it ironic that someone such as yourself with a penchant for making publicly inflammatory comments would be so easily offended by something so silly as a few chosen four letter words such that it would cause you to resort infantile name calling and threats to report someone “to the police for action”. As I have said many times in the comments on techdirt. Civility is important and insults never make an argument stronger. They just make you look like a troll.

And here his response (which was quite civil and seemed to confirm somewhat what I had started to suspect – that he’s not REALLY against libraries and schools but rather trying to spark discussion to motivate people to care):

Dear [redacted]
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I do not wish to enter into any further debate. I have provoked discussion which will hopefully see the UK libraries stirred into action rather than sleepwalking into extinction.
2. The debate is now in its 10th day and I have moved on. Time for others to pick up the baton.
3. I need to address the problem of the cowardly cyber-bullies who have no interest in an intelligent exchange of ideas but simply wish to use the opportunity to write obscenities and abuse. The matter is in hand.
Yours is the last message I will read on the subject.
Enjoy your reading, enjoy your life.

Sent from my iPhone

Aaron Wolf (profile) says:

A few years ago, I thought nobody would go this far

I used the public library argument years ago thinking that nobody would say that the public library was bad. So then, what difference does it make if I download vs get from the library? Etc. discuss please.

But now people are taking the bait and digging in instead of questioning their previous positions. This is absurd and scary. I never thought I’d see this.

econoline (profile) says:

porsche would love porsche libraries

What would happen if every single library in the US bought a porsche and allowed it to be checked out 3 weeks at a time for free. Well the first thing would be that many systems would probably have to buy a couple extras because of the demand to check out the car. The second is that over time they would be worn out and the libraries would have to buy more porsches to replace them. I am pretty sure that this system would actually result in a net increase in the number of porsches sold in the US, and porsche would love it.

special interesting says:

Among the many requirements of the works that I read…

4) I like my authors to be intelligent, smarter than me and have insight beyond what I have so… that I might actually obtain that insight for myself. When selecting books for my kids this is also a large factor although entertainment is important too.

Whether the work be fiction or fact the author’s world view always creeps into the work. Since I like to learn and understand about everything I pick authors with a huge and accurate world view as possible.

By obvious example it seems that this author does not meet my requirements for quality reading material. Scratch Horrible Histories off the book-list and if seen in store will probably ignore as much as a… (fill in your most worst book or author here)

requirements 1-3 here but off topic

FoolsFolly says:

Greed makes paupers of us all

As a taxpayer, donor and volunteer I’m glad to help make the public library possible. Nothing in the library is free; everything in the library has been purchased and at much higher prices when purchased directly by the library.

This fool sits at home vexed by the fear that he has somehow been cheated out of the one or two coins that he simply must have to top off his pot of gold. Silas lives!

So, if I buy his book then burn it, he’s happy. But, if I buy it and read it to a group of kids, he’d be furious as hell that these dirty, little thieves all heard the story for free.

Let’s all help calm his nerves – stop buying his books.

Problem solved.

light it up says:


you authors are NOT making this easy for me. on one hand im trying to defend your right to free speech while on the other im wondering if defending your greedy —- is worth it. im also starting to think that book burnings are going to make a comeback but instead of doing it becuase someone thinks its filth there going to do it becuase of people like this

Robert Sier (user link) says:

Apparently typical.

According to some economic theorists, people who attain wealth often try to make sure that nobody follows in their footsteps. This often causes the eventual collapse of the system. (source: Why Nations Fail, Acemoglu & Robinson)

As a no-name, starting author, the first thing I did on acquiring print copies of my book was march to my local library and donate two copies. Why wouldn’t I? It’s the easiest way to get some exposure.

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