I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio today and they had as a guest one Scott somebody or other who started this thing called Book Crossings.
The concept is you join their group, register a book you have that you’d like to share, then leave that book “in the wild,” meaning on a park bench, in a bus station, or anywhere in public. Another member captures the book and reads it, then leaves it somewhere for someone else to pick up, all while tracking the book online for the entire community to see. “Oh look, the book has visited 10 countries so far!”
Sounds cute and harmless, but as an author I was horrified to hear this.
I was horrified because if one book is circulated among even a tenth of this community (estimated at over 575,000 members as of August 1st), let’s say 57,500 members, then that is 57,500 less books sold that the author would have received royalties for.
The Book Crossings’ argument sounds similar to that used by those who STEAL music off the web: it introduces readers to new authors and genres that they would not have been exposed to before and therefore these people will actually go out and buy extra copies of the book because they enjoyed it.
Baloney. Thieves can always justify their desire to steal. This is nothing more than a way to rip off writers as downloading music is a way to rip off musicians. People are less inclined to buy something they’ve already perused for free. What’s the expression, why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free?
Authors, like musicians, work hard to create that book or song. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into the creation process. The authors want their works to be enjoyed by as many people possible, yes, but they also expect to receive recompense for it. They aren’t creating these works for free consumption. The thought that upwards of thousands of readers are enjoying the book and the writer isn’t receiving even one red cent from it is appalling to me.
Writing, as they say, is like sex and writers are like whores, first we do it with ourselves, then with a few close friends, then since we’re doing it anyway we decide to do it for payment. Hmm. Wait. I think I messed that one up.
Anyway, as a reader and lover of books, I’m even more appalled by this whole sharing concept. I love books. I collect them and I hate to lend them out. They never return in the same pristine state as I lent them, if they are even returned at all. The thought that one of my babies might be left out in the rain or snow to catch cold saddens me. Books are not meant to be released into the wild. They can’t fend for themselves and will surely die of exposure when left out in the elements.
As a charter member of the ASPCB, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Books (and it’s only member), I insist this barbaric practice cease! Because that’s what it is. Barbarism.
Seems to me that a better and more humane way to run this Book Crossings is each registered member reads a book, then they post a review of the book online encouraging others to go out and BUY the book themselves. That would be the best of all worlds. More books would be purchased helping the writers, more people would know the joy of giving a loving home to a book, and all those lonely books would be able to live out the rest of their lives in sheltered and pampered comfort.
Have you hugged your books today?