Once again the hilarity arises of someone labeling librarians as militant.  Not only that, they seem to again use the label as if its a bad thing.  I recently came across a discussion comparing being a librarian to having a religion; many of us in the field tend to be very passionate about what we do and the causes we champion.  Maybe this is what happens when you have a profession largely made of highly educated people in less than highly paid positions, we're not in the field for the money.

Thank you, LibrarianShipwreck for putting it perfectly.

So why the hell am I even talking about this today?  Why is anyone?  And who is Richard Russo?

It started with a letter (or see the PDF) written by Richard Russo on beseeching authors to join the Authors Guild to fight to protect the author way of life.  In the letter he writes about the evil machinations of big companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple, about the "militant librarians who see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to “lend” our e-books without restriction," and about the "'information wants to be free' crowd."

In a number of ways this is kind of hilarious.  But it is also frustrating.  I'm not upset that he called librarians "militant" - I'll take that badge and wear it.  I'm upset by the hyperbolic comparison linking the dangers posed by a company like Amazon to the limited power of libraries, and I'm upset by the narrow-mindedness of his statements which oversimplify issues and ignore relevant points.  And perhaps just as importantly I'm upset by the backing this letter has by some very prominent and successful authors and author organizations, including (obviously) the Author's Guild and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI, which shared the letter as "Must read for authors").  That's what really hurts.

Personally I think if he and his compatriots feel that Amazon is such a threat to their way of life then they should STOP SELLING THROUGH AMAZON.  Talk to their publishers, express their desire to be represented only by other online retailers, believe me, those other retailers would LOVE to work with you on this.  As high selling authors they have far more power to fight against Amazon than most, as he says, they provide the content Amazon needs.  One or two may not make a huge difference to Amazon, but a large force of authors would make an impact.  I feel if you're going to lambast a company as destroying your way of life you should at least strive to not support them financially (in addition to using their "evil" might to grow your own paycheck).

I'm a librarian who wants fair terms to lend ebooks.  I'm fine with one copy one user if the price and terms are fair.  Four times the list price is not fair, especially for a book that access to is tied to a vendor platform that costs thousands each year to member libraries.  Expiring after 26 check outs only seems good compared to expiring after the first to occur of 26 check outs or one year.  If we were buying simultaneous use licenses I would find higher prices fair.  Compared to the terms we face repurchasing the Harry Potter books after 5 years is exciting.  And 50 Shades of Grey really was not worth $80 per digital copy.

"Information wants to be free" is not meant to be about everything for nothing.  It's about sharing of information and knowledge.  It does not innately mean that everyone involved is supporting of piracy and never pays for anything (it also bears remembering that those who pirate and those who purchase are not exclusive camps).

I'm upset at authors striking out at some of their biggest supporters with oversimplified statements worded to vilify.  Libraries (and even piracy) are huge parts in the discovery process for consumer consumption, helping sales and profit.  Meanwhile, I'm damn proud to be a "militant" librarian if that's what striving to provide the best service I can means.


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