Monday, May 3, 2010

do libraries help or hurt book sales?

Not too long ago, INTERN was delighted to receive a good review in a magazine read by many librarians. "Ah!" burbled a voluble INTERN to Techie Boyfriend. "Perhaps this means 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will one day appear in our Locale Librarye. How charming!" A cloud passed over Techie Boyfriend's normally sunny visage. "Let's hope not," he muttered gravely, "or people won't have to buy it anymore."

"Techie Boyfriend," quoth INTERN, "you are but a simple, technically-minded man. What laughable frippery-froppery to suggest that putting a book in Libraries could ever harm its sales."

But the seed of doubt had been planted in INTERN's trusting mind, and she has been fretting over this point all weekend. INTERN is a lover of Libraries, and has been all her life—but now that it's down to a cold, hard handful of change in royalties for every copy sold, should INTERN fear and suspect the institution (the socialist institution! the red scare!) that threatens to put her book into thousands of grimy and not-so-grimy hands for free? Are loveable Libraries sabotaging the publishing industry and starving authors out of even their humblest wormskin jackets? Is a Modest Proposal in order that Libraries be burned to cinders and Librarians fed to said starving authors for dinner?

INTERN is thinking of all the times she declined to purchase a book because it was available at the library—but also thinking of all the times she bought a book only after seeing it at the library, or after checking it out ten times and loving it so much she couldn't live without a copy. She is thinking of all the authors whose websites she visited after seeing their book at the library or whose poetry readings she attended in one of those weirdly sterile library conference rooms.

And she can't figure it out. Other angles come to mind: perhaps libraries help book sales for some kinds of books (how-to, field guides, cookbooks, things you really need to own a copy of in order to be useful) and hurt others (certain kinds of novels? expensive books?). Perhaps libraries either help or hurt books sales depending on the economic climate of the region, the number of bookstores in the area, or similar factors. Perhaps libraries help or hurt book sales depending on how well the book itself is being promoted in bookstores and in the media. And so on.

INTERN wants to know, fragrant readers: How do you think libraries affect your book-buying habits? Have you ever bought a book after seeing it at the library or checking it out? Have you ever not bought a book specifically because you could get it at the library? Does anyone (librarians, authors, publishing folk, and civilians alike) have a more authoritative angle on this, cause INTERN wants some answers!


  1. I ended up purchasing some Sarah Dessen Books and the entire catalog of Megan McCafferty and John Green ... AFTER reading all their books at the library. If I read a book from the library and think I might want to enjoy it again, or if I loved it so much I'd consider it a favorite, I'll go out and buy myself a copy.

  2. I (being on a negative income level as an unemployed college student) do not buy books. Practically all my books come from the library right now, so in that sense, yes. Libraries hurt book sales.

    On the other hand, it's true that I also do as you do: I check out my most beloved books 4 times, 5, 7, and once it gets that high, I usually go buy it.

    So basically I'm on the fence - not sure. Beyond book sales, though, libraries are certainly do good things for spreading the word. What browsing reader hasn't picked up an otherwise unknown book at the library just because it happened to be there (and have a cool cover)? And what about those awesome librarians?

    - Rebecca

  3. I love my library, especially now that the hold system actually works. I like to think of my library the same way I like to think of the first date with someone. I'm interested, I want to like it, but I'm not ready to commit. We're just trying things out. Generally, if I like a book I orginally got from the library I'll buy it to support the author (unless said author is dead). If I don't, well then I've saved 9-12 bucks and much needed shelf space. I've also bought books that I couldn't get through the hold system or the wait list was way too long and I was impatient to read it.

    From what I understand of publishing houses though is when they look at your sales and numbers they take library sales and records into account. Then that whole picture is what the advance for the next book is based on.

  4. Personally, I don't use the library. I am very particular, and like to own every book that I read. I have so many to read, and am picky about what I buy, but I always buy. I don't even borrow books from friends. Guess that's why my office is chock full of tomes.

    I don't think that libraries cause a noticeable dent in sales. Most people that use the library don't buy books at all, as far as I know (could be wrong on that one), or rarely buy them. I would just look at it as another way to get your name out there, plus you can go look at the card catalog and see your name, how cool would that be?

  5. I rarely go out and buy a book in which I have a casual interest if I can't get at the library. I have no interest in re-reading a mystery after I've read it the first time, so why would I buy it?

    On the other hand, I can think of several books which I have purchased after reading the library's copy, because I enjoyed them so much. I can even name at least one multi-volume series I now own which started out with me reading the first volume from the library.

    I can also think of at least once case in which I suggested my library buy a specific book so I could check it out. If I check out your book from the library and boost its circulation figures, maybe they'll be more likely to buy your next one. I figure library use affecting sales comes close to balancing out in the end.

    Besides, libraries rule.

  6. The only books I have purposely checked out at the library (rather than purchase) were ones I did not care enough to spend money on, but I'd heard enough hype about to be curious.

    For example: there's a current series out that's moderately successful, has a movie deal, solid sales...I've picked up at the bookstore a dozen times but never bought it because other books always seem better to me...and finally one day I found it at the library and thought, "what the heck, it's free". (it was exactly what I expected, okay, but nothing special, and I had my decision not to buy it affirmed)

  7. Hate to be a downer, but usually if I can find it at the local library I won't buy it. The only reason I *might* is if the book is FULL of info & I don't want to take notes or photocpy the library book. Then there's also the used book sales, why pay full price for a book if you can get it for 1/2 that because there's a rip or smudge? Unfortunately I think used book sales probably take a lot of royalties away from authors :(

  8. No, No, No.

    Obscurity is a bigger problem for most books than any free reading (piracy, borrowing, used books, libraries).

    If I'm taking it out of the library, at least I know about it.
    And if I'm reading it, I'm probably talking about it.

    Even if I haven't bought it by taking it out of the library, the chances are better that someone else will, because one more person has read it, and carried it around, and talked about it. It's marketing.

    As an author, the more people who know about your book, the better. Period.

  9. I prefer to buy books so I may clutch them to my bosom for all eternity, and also one time I found boogers in a very important library book which I desperately needed for a research paper. HOWEVER. I have discovered many an excellent book at a library, which I have then gone out and bought, or at least bought something else by the same author.

  10. I think the best way for an author to see libraries is the same way their publisher sees them: guaranteed bulk sales with no change of return.

    In the long run, there are very few types of books that could possibly be significantly damaged by library access, and regional travel is not among them. International bestsellers are, but there are other avenues of getting free copies than the library, and in that instance SOME money for multiple uses is better than NO money for the same circumstance.

  11. Well, libraries do buy their books first. And I've always heard that a good sell-in to libraries is really important, as it's a mainstay that can be counted on by publishers to recoup a lot of printing/publishing costs for that hardcover run.

  12. I don't know about others, but all libraries do is educate my choices. I'm a book lover - love to have my collection of favorites sitting around at hand any time I want. So I rarely buy something I haven't read or hasn't been recommended to me UNLESS it comes from an author I already love - in which case the Library can just watch my smoke trail because I'm not waiting in line to read it.

    From my background in business strategy / marketing, I suspect there is a small group out there that won't buy it if they can get it at the library - but they wouldn't fall into your core business anyway. They aren't 'real customers'.

    Book lovers are your people. The economy will hurt you more than libraries because that will send otherwise dedicated buyers in search of a cheaper (read: free) option. But if they love you, they'll find a way.

  13. As a teen the local library is where I spent most of the summer, and it kept me from spending every small paycheck on books.

    But I grew up in a city with poor access to bookstores (I think there is a total of one, these days) and the library was also the only place to find new books.

    Now, between local booksstores and the web I'm able to spend more than I should on books. Probably almost as much as a spend on library fines.

    But I'm one of those people who buy books because owning books makes me happy, not just because I read them.

  14. Libraries help my reading habit, tenfold.

    A few years back, I was walking through the Burbank Public Library after securing a book I needed for research. Sitting on an endcap was a book called HOLMES ON THE WAY. Intrigued by the notion of Sherlock Holmes deducing in the American West, I checked it out.

    Since then, I've purchased every single Steve Hockensmith that comes out. He's my absolute favorite.

    I've also discovered Tasha Alexander, Erlene Fowler, JD Robb, James Rollins, and countless others as a result of first checking out their books in the library...and I now own all of their books with most being in hardcover.

  15. Ooo, this is a subject near and dear to my heart since my state keeps threatening to cut funding to our local libraries.

    I think that, assuming most consumers are similar to myself, libraries do not harm book sales and may even be helpful. Books that I fully intend to purchase, I just simply go out and purchase. If I'm test driving a book at a library, it's because I do not intend to purchase it (at the moment) and still wouldn't purchase it even if the library didn't exist. I'd simply read a little bit of it every time I went to the bookstore. The nice thing about the library is that it allows me to leisurely read the book and decide if I'd much rather have my own copy so I can write in the margins to my heart's content.

    Now to play devil's advocate for a moment, I will admit that libraries probably help to cut down on sales for certain reference books and books used in research papers and school reports. But on the plus side, anything that helps kids out in school tends to help their literacy and encourages them to read more. And reading more most likely leads to more book sales of some sort.

  16. I'm a long time reader/lurker, first time commenter. I love your blog, finding it tasteful and intelligent, yet friendly and humorous - a rare combination, and an excellent one.

    Now, I'm not an expert on any of this, and I won't claim to be. Still, you asked, so I'm answering.

    I read quite a bit more than some people, but less than many. My reading choices are mainly confined to fiction, and non-fiction when I need information on a particular subject.

    I find that I mainly check novels out of libraries when I am unsure as to whether I'll enjoy them. If I enjoy the author, I buy the book instead - reading your own book seems to make for a better experience. Also, I'll buy the book later if I like it, because it makes for an even better second read, as well as always having the book on hand.

    For non-fiction, I don't base it on author, but on how much I'll need it. If I plan on using it quite a bit, I'm going to buy it. Otherwise, I'll check it out of a library. If I enjoy the book although I won't need it much, I'm still a less likely to attempt to acquire a personal copy after I use it. I might recommend it, however, but this can scarcely be considered purchasing.

    However - I must also confess I'm much less likely to stumble upon the book at all, were it not in the library for me to find.

    I fear I can offer no clear solution, but I offer you whatever help I can give. If you'd like more, simply ask. Your blog is one of my favorite reads!

    Best wishes!
    - A. Prog.

  17. From a writer's standpoint I think that they don't hurt book sales. People who would buy the book will do so and people who don't want to own books or can't afford to buy them will go to libraries. I buy books by my favorite author and my sister only goes to the library. She has a small apartment and no place to keep books after she's read them.

  18. Sure I've not bought a book because I could get it at the library. But the thought that anything that makes people read more could hurt book sales seems silly and absurd.

    For instance, libraries are a great way to try on new authors for size. Often I'll get my first book from the library, but then I'll enjoy so much that I'll want to own a copy, or buy a copy for a friend, and then I'll go on to buy other books by that author.

    I love to give books to people, and the library (for some odd reason) frowns upon the practice of giving their books away, so I have to buy copies.

    And consider the obverse: if a book is not in the library and I'm not familiar with the author, I might not want to go to the trouble of buying it, especially if I can't find it for cheap (i.e., used). There are books I've deleted off my to-read list, never to be thought of again, simply because they weren't at the library.

    Libraries are another form of free publicity for authors. Your books will reach a wider audience, because they have the potential to be picked for library book clubs, to be featured on library websites and newsletters, etc. The library is a prepackaged community of readers, many of whom often know each other, waiting for new books to arrive.

  19. Oh good. A topic I can pretend to be knowledgeable about since I sell books to libraries, borrow books from libraries and also write books. I don't think it is ever a bad thing for a library to buy your book. That being said I did just order a book from my bookstore because my local library didn't have a copy. But this is the sort of thing one has to think long term about, and there are far more cases of me discovering an author via my library and then buying the rest of his or her books.

  20. This post is getting some reader feedback on twitter @WritersDigest.

  21. There are a lot of books that I wouldn't buy but I'll read because they are in the library. If I like them, I usually will buy the author's next book, which usually isn't available at the library for several months.

    In my opinion that is a definite plus for the publishing industry.

  22. I can tell you (secondhand from a librarian I met, so grain of salt and all that) that if enough people check out a book, the library will order more copies.

  23. I can't figure this one out. I do know lots of people who treat libraries like a "free sample" except of the whole book. They check it out, read it first, and only buy the ones they really love. So they still buy books. Or, if there is a book just released but still not out in paperback and they don't want to pay the big bucks but have to read it RIGHT NOW they go to the library and buy the paperback when it's available.

    So. Yeah. I can't tell.

  24. In the UK, and many other European countries, we have Public Lending Right (funded by Government). This ensures that authors receive a few pence per loan of their books, and those few pence can quickly add up. I get a (modest) four figure sum every March through this scheme.

    A dash of Socialism goes a long way.

    I like libraries a lot, until I spend time in them. Libraries smell. When was the last time anyone opened a window in a library? When was the last time those plastified covers got a scrub? I love libraries but I don't want to wait for my turn to borrow a book, or find someone's ravioli holding the pages together. In the end, I suppose I mostly love libraries because of Public Lending Right.

  25. I dont think it factors into the equation much at all, except to help sales by creating young readers who will buy books when older. as to older readers too economically challenged or who refuse to buy new books, there's no lost lost sale -- they'd get it some other else, or move on to another free book.

  26. I work in a library, so this might be biased. I don't often buy books because, well, they're right here. However, because of the library, books have come to my attention which I might have missed otherwise. And the library community is one of recommending books to others, so we must have some hand in generating buzz.

    I fall into the category of buying books after I have read them in the library and decide I must own a copy.

  27. In the UK, and many other countries, authors actually receive royalties for library books, to a maximum of £6600. It comes out of the national library budget, rather than the individual library's (I mention because I've seen librarians panic about that before), and there's a lot of reciprocal arrangments that mean if a British author's book is checked out in, say, Germany, they'll get royalities for that too. However, since the US has no such program, I don't think US authors are eligible to claim it in other countries, alas.

  28. I used to grab pretty much anything I could get my hands on at the library, both because my allowance wouldn't stretch that far, and because I simply didn't have the storage space. Nowdays, I prefer buying my books myself, simply for the convenience of reading them whenever I get around to it, rather than within a set span of time. I realized as much as I ended up paying in late fees from sheer laziness of driving across town to the library, I might as well buy the book instead.

  29. Currently, my hubby and I are living on a single grad student stipend. I am super super selective of what books I buy. Yet, I want to be a published author, and libraries are a way for me to keep up on what's out there. We check out masses of books each week. The majority we do not buy (yet). What the library does do, however, is introduce us to books that we CERTAINLY would not have bought but are simply so wonderful that we forgo, say, new shoes and rush to the bookstore with the precious dollars.

    It's especially true for authors we don't know. I'm apt to go buy the latest Robin McKinley book without reading it, because I love her work. At my current wealth level, there's no way I'm buying a book by an unknown author until I'm certain that I love the entire thing, down to the ending.

    Verdict: Library good. And don't forget the masses of kiddies that they encourage to become book-reading (and thus buying) adults (and seniors!).

    New Question: Used book stores. I'd be more wary of them than libraries. They're great for out-of-print books (or old covers) but everything you buy there not only doesn't end up in the author's pocket but also does not show up on her sales figure, hurting her stats when the Publisher decides to take on the next book. Furthermore, the used-book buyer doesn't have to give the book back, like they do at the library...if they love it, they keep it. I used to adore these shops, but I want to make sure that publishers continue to support my fave authors too.

  30. Let me put my librarian hat on for a moment, here. *brim straighten*

    There are times where I have wanted to read a book, but I have asked the library to purchase it (read: put it in an order, since I help with collection development) rather than pay a visit to my friendly neighborhood bookseller. I think this is true of most of the staff where I work. That isn't to say that once the institutionally purchased material has passed our critical eye and earned the stamp of "awesome," we don't go out and purchase said material with our hard earned library monies to add it to our personal collections.

    Personally, there are some things I will never purchase. For instance, the latest book in a series I'm currently devouring in audio format so I can "read" and knit at the same time? The library's digital or physical copy will do fine. James Herriot's collection of books in the same format? I need my own copy of that just in case of impromptu road trips. (The same is true for Starship Troopers.) And I'll always prefer to purchase classics/award winners for ownership, even if I read the library copy first.

  31. I used to read books from the library 50% of the time and buy books 50% of the time. Now that I have a Kindle I only buy e-books unless I have a writer friend who has a book coming out. I'll then buy the book in hardcover but I probably won't read it. I find it a pain to read hard covers now.

  32. Intern, I often find that when I want a specific book, I have to be wait-listed for it at my local library. The fact that it's at a public library doesn't bother me, but I want what I want when I want it. And waiting doesn't always appeal to me. So, I usually try to get the best deal on just buying it, knowing I will probably pass it along to a friend when I'm done with it. It's a system of reciprocity because I get books from them, as well. I have never read a book from the library, however, that I then went out and purchased for myself. I have, though, checked out books that I read and enjoyed them so much that I then went and purchased them as gifts for others.

  33. Kids can't afford books, but someday, they will be able to. It's in your best interest if they grow up to be readers.

    Plus, there are a lot of adults too poor to buy books, but reading might provide them the edge they need to pull themselves out of poverty. Libraries give them the chance.

    Also, people are a lot more likely to take a risk on an unknown author when they can read the book for free. If the author is awesome, that skeptical reader may become a fan and start buying the author's subsequent books. Libraries provide a "try before you buy" option.

  34. I am poor, a cheapskate, and someone who rarely reads books more than once unless they are absolute favorites. It is rare for me to EVER buy a book without first reading it via the library, unless it is a book by a favorite author (whom I first discovered by picking up one of his or her books at the library). If I read a book, love it, and later decide I need to read it again, that is when I head to the bookstore to purchase a copy. So if a book isn't in the library, I will never buy it, and the author will lose money.

  35. ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh!!!! delicious comments, everyone!!! and overwhelmingly on the side of "libraries lovable and divine" just as INTERN was hoping.

    re: the try before you buy option:

    INTERN has read that people are more likely to buy just about anything after being given a free trial, because they feel like they already own it (and now just need to complete the psychological process of ownership by paying for it).

    But even if libraries don't lead to more book sales, there are plenty of other reasons to love them....

  36. There's a paradox here that John Perry Barlow sums up really well (I'm paraphrasing) "the correlation between value and scarcity is less important than the correlation between value and familiarity." Just because a book is at a library, doesn't mean it's suddenly "less scarce" and therefore "less valuable". Publishing/reading is all about finding that author which speaks your language: familiarity. At some point your book will go out of print, but check to see how many libraries it's in. As long as there are a few copies left, people will always be able to discover you once again. Which will be really important with the next book ... :)

  37. I don't use the library anymore because I can afford to buy the books I want. However when I was poor student (a whole 18 months ago) I only read from the library and I think that's fair. Reading is such a wonderful thing that no one should be denied it because of lack of funds.

  38. I buy books if I love them so much I can't live without them after I read them at the library! Also, I buy a lot of books in English, because my library mostly has translated works which I hate reading...

  39. If I love a fiction author, I'll check out the books, read them, then buy "clean" copies for my home library. Non-fiction I must own so I can highlight, but I might check it out first to be sure I really want to own it. I agree that libraries are great for book buzz, and if enough people are on a waiting list for a book I want I figure it MUST be worth buying.

  40. There were definitely books I bought after getting them at the library (Harry Potter), but there many other books that I didn't shell out for, even after loving them at the library. Why? I don't often re-read books. When I head to B&N, I find it hard to justify spending book money on something I already read instead of a new, undiscovered book.

    So, I feel the scale is tipped slightly toward libraries hurting book sales. However, I think libraries definitely get authors more readers. I'm not a published book author, so I can't speak from experience, but I think I'd personally prefer to have 2,000 more readers from libraries than not have them at all.

  41. Since I don't have much money, I don't buy many books, and I think VERY carefully about the books I choose to spend money on. I buy books by my favorite authors, books that my library (since it NEVER gets books as soon as they come out) will not have for months and that I am dying to read, and books that have somewhere around 52 holds on them (roughly a 2-3 year wait). So for the most part, the library is where I get my books.

  42. Libraries are so good for books and authors and readers! My sister is a librarian and an avid book reader and buyer. Any small decrease in sales that may be caused by libraries is offset by the ginormous benefit to the writing and reading world that libraries provide. I go the the library every week with my kids and check out 10 or so books, but I go to the bookstore once a week also and buy one or two books for myself. The more books the better - free, buy, trade, just more more more.

  43. In Australia, we have the Public Lending Right scheme ( to compensate creators and publishers:
    "The Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme makes payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers whose books are held in public lending libraries. The Education Lending Right (ELR) scheme makes similar payments for books held in educational libraries."

    There is nothing similar in the US?

  44. For me this is kind of like the see-it-in-theaters/rent decision. If it looks good enough, I'll hand over the cash as soon as I can. If it looks not-so-good, I tell myself I'll get it at the library and then always forget about it later.
    I think what you are really worrying about is whether or not your book is any good. And don't worry. If it's half as funny as your blog, it is.

  45. Uh... This is for INTERN, not readers. No one will get this far in comments.

    I have not bought a few books because I could get them at the library--but these were books I strongly disagreed with the very writing of, which I wanted to read only for the purposes of being able to slam it with the force of my own experience reading it. I specifically did not want to give the authors royalties... but I would have were there no other way to get a copy of the book. Internet piracy and used bookstores also came to mind, though. I would have gone there before buying new.

  46. Library first, then the used bookstore, then Amazon, then Costco. Usually first novels are terrible, so I wait for the author's second novel. Ideally the whole series was already published so I can read them all one after the other from inter-library loan. If they have a MFA in writing I don't read it.

  47. it all depends on the enviromanet where an author's fan resides. some books are easily seen on magazine reviews but is hardly withing the reach of the willing reader (knowing where to get what and being able to get what) i think the library helps to bring the writer to his readers. this may not translate into direct sale but it builds visibility, which could increase sale. so, it hurt's now to sooth later.

  48. A book that makes it into the general circulation library market potentially has an enduring audience.

    A book that doesn't is fleeting at best.

    The U.S. general circulation library market potentially enjoys 30,000 or more copy purchases. A popular title single copy will be read by hundreds if not thousands of readers.

    30,000 copies read by hundreds of thousands of readers is missed sales opportunities but still a large audience of readers.

  49. There are a lot of books I hear about or see in a store and just go ahead and buy them because I know I will like them. If I'm not sure about a particular author or particular book, I'll borrow it from the library and read it for free first (or in moments like the last month when I'm on a reading spree and have been checking books out like crazy!). But many of the books I've read from the library lately are very good and I intend to buy them when I get the chance.

  50. I wonder what the publishing world would think if libraries STOPPED buying books. I mean, we spend a great deal of money buying things. Libraries do not get these books for free. When libraries buy them, publishers are getting sales. If they think they would get MORE sales if libraries stopped buying their product.....I am skeptical. How many people buy 10 to 300 copies of a particular work? Some authors, through constant use or constant theft, need to be replaced often. Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Stephen King.....Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel Laurell K. Hamilton etc. We lost a huge portion of our materials budget, but still have a heft 4m to spend on books and other items.

  51. I LOVE libraries! I find myself being a much more adventurous reader because, hey, the books are free! Libraries help me leave my comfort zone. Too many times I've bought a book and been disappointed -- total waste of money. I don't like buying books I won't read more than once. With that said -- when I DO find a library book I love, I need to own it. And I also gush about it to friends -- which is extra-beneficial to the authors of incredible books that haven't sold well or gotten a lot of publicity. All thanks to reading it free the first time around.

    I think libraries help author sales overall because, if a book is being frequently checked out, they'll order more copies. I buy as many books as possible, but most of what I read is borrowed from a local library.

  52. Libraries help me cull technical books so I can find the author and version most suitable for my informational needs, visual interest, and mental aptitude. I then promptly go forth and purchase, because a book you can't write in isn't a book at all.

    Also, ditto the above commenters on finding purchase-worthy fiction. My most petted of pet peeves is forking over cash for a book I won't re-read.

    Libraries are like advertising paid for by someone else. What's not to love?

  53. I think there's a fine point between libraries helping or hurting book sales, and much of it depends on price vs. availability.

    Big, glossy art books with twelve million colored photographs? Those I would definitely check out from the library. I would never in a trillion years even *consider* buying one of them from Barnes and Noble, or even online. It's not worth the price. But cheap paperback books, too, seem to stand a greater chance of being seen at the library, read, and never bought in a store, because of the easy availability - you could find them everywhere. Weird, twisted logic, but that seems to be how it works.

    Maybe there's a point between the price and availability that appeals to the consumer? For example, libraries often have only one copy of a book in stock. If I saw the title in a search of the library and was intrigued, but the copy was out of stock, I might go ahead and buy it at the store on faith. So, low availability in the library might make me go all-out on price at the bookstore.

    But I think that for a book to be seen at the library, checked it out, read, and then *still* paid for at the bookstore calls for:

    1. being pulled from the shelves of the library (thus, no availability);
    2. a sudden discount at the bookstore (thus, lower price);
    or 3. fantastic, breathtaking quality that literally makes one ill at the thought of never possessing said book.

  54. I have a (strange?) aversion to library books... mostly because (a) you don't know where exactly they've been (bathrooms, bathroom floors... ick) and (b) you can't really tell what that weird sticky substance between some of the pages is.

    Plus, there's something about New Book Smell... all the variants... delicious. Irresistible. :)

  55. I've found, in the past, that if I discover good books by an author at the library, I'll be more inclined to buy that author's books when I run into them in the store than I would have been if I heard about them for the time in the store. So, I think, the libraries help authors, at least in some ways.

  56. Growing up we started at libraries. As my family gained more money we stopped visiting libraries and started buying books. Now that I'm a poor, on-my-own adult, I'm back at the library, though I do buy books of authors I really love and I usually will buy a book if I go to a book signing so that I can have my own special copy. I also will buy books that I've read that I'd like to share with any children I may or may not shelter in my future.

    The great thing about libraries, though, is that don't usually just buy one copy. They buy multiple copies (I should know I check in new books 3 days a week at work ;)). When books get worn out, pages get torn beyond repair, etc., etc., the library buys even more new copies. If a book gets enough holds on it, the library will also order more books to meet the demand. And to be quite honest, I've seen the library buy books and by the time they are received, all the holds have been run through because the rampant popularity has put the book on backorder.

    And heck, if I ever get published I'd probably donate a copy or two of my book to the local library because I want people to have access to it so they can read it. And if they like it enough, hopefully they'll go out and buy the next one themselves.

  57. I love the library! As a graduate student with almost no money, the library allows me to keep reading and finding good books. If I love a book, I'll buy it as soon as I scrounge up the cash. If I only like it, I'll know to put that author on my list of authors to watch, and keep a look out for further books. If I don't like, I've saved some cash.

    Even though I tend to only buy books I love (or can't wait through the enormous wait list for), I think libraries are good for book sales. I'm so poor, if it weren't for the library, I wouldn't be reading much. The library allows me to be immersed in many books without worrying about my rent. The more books I check out, the more likely I am to find one I love and go buy it. Aaaaand, because I already know I love it, I'm not going to worry about whether or not I should spend the cash; I just do it.

  58. I don't use the library. I buy everything I want to read and if I don't like it I give it to someone else or just randomly leave it on the tram and let fate find it a new owner. So, libraries make no difference to me at all. I'm sure I've just added some real depth to the discussion... hmmmm....

  59. I grew up in libraries. As a child in a poor family, this fed my love of books in way that bookstores couldn't have.

    As an adult, I buy books instead of borrowing them. I love to own them, touch them, caress them and love them. Maybe it comes back to the poverty issue.

    So, as a reader, I am inclined to believe that libraries are vital for exposing people to literature. In fact, my chapter book is written with the library market in mind. Like others have stated before, a library market is a solid market.

    Not to mention the fact that libaries have been around for eons and so far the publishing world hasn't crumbled : )

  60. I'm of the opinion that library people and bookstore people are different. There are some that love to borrow, and some that love buy and keep them. Plus it just helps get the book out there, and a library-loving person may borrow your book and recommend it to 3 others who will instead order it on Amazon. I think it can only help!

  61. If my experience is typical (probably not), I'd say libraries don't significantly hurt book sales. If they do, they hurt mainly used book stores rather than authors and publishers, because cheap-asses like me rarely buy anything for full price. Pretty much the only time I buy new books is when I'm giving them as gifts. Off the top of my head, I could name 4 books that I bought new for others after first having checked them out for myself at the library.

  62. In my case, libraries have most certainly been friends of the publishers. My parents took me to the local library at least once a week for my entire childhood. Did I buy a lot of books back then? No. My parents purchased a few, but nothing compared to the number I checked out.

    I love libraries, as a book lover and as an educator. They're part of why I fell in love with reading, because we never could have afforded that diversity ourselves. They bring an entire world into a single building.

    A library is an investment in readers. Now that I'm established, I buy books on a regular basis for my own personal library and for my students.

  63. Definitely help. Here are the ways:

    #1) People like me get the book at the library, and then forget, and then end up racking up so many fines that we end up buying the book.
    #2) If you sell one copy of your book to every one of the 120,000 libraries in the US, then you'll have sold 120,000 books, which is a pretty good start
    #3) People are generally in a library mood, or a book-buying mood, not usually both. So, I think that if someone's in a library mood, they won't be in a space to buy your book anyway.
    #4) So, people who regularly buy books won't be stopping at the library either.
    #5) People trust those insane people who read four books a week (folks who go to the library). So, if a friend of mine who goes to the library and reads books recommends your book, I'm much more likely to buy it.

  64. Perusing the erudite comments above, its easy to forget that in todays media-saturated society, serious READING is at risk. Anything that promotes the skill and joy of absorbing information from the printed page (as opposed to the boob-tube, you-tube, tube-tube) is to be treasured and protected. The greater question: how do we preserve and promote reading? An important part of the answer is LIBRARIES.

  65. Libraries don't reduce the booksales. If anything, it's quite the opposite. I speak both from experience as non-fiction book author and as a person who had worked several years in a bookstore, both on the counter and as an assistant to the buyer.

    When I'm talking with my publisher about a book project and it's potential sales, one figure always on the equation is sales to libraries. Before the economical crises it was a big constat - my publisher could count that libraries would have the titles on autoorder. Now that the library funding has been seriously cut, not so much any more, but it still figures hugely.

    I have also gotten paid speaking gigs and been asked to give lectures after the organisators have seen my book(s) in the library. Finland (and other Nordic countries) have also a modified Public Lending Right program (albeit underfinanced) so I get some cents after my books have been borrowed more than X times.

    When I worked as a assistant buyer in a big bookstore chain, we always took into concideration if the title had a library edition (you know, those with hard covers and special binding) available. Library boundings are not cheap to produce, publishers make hardly any profit on them, so having one available showed us that the publisher really believed on the title. Also, there are genres (poetry comes to mind first) where sales to libraries are critical - without them, the book would not have enough sales and never published.

    Finnish Book Publishers Association did some years ago a research into peoples book buying and borrowing habits. One of the results was that people who use libraries a lot are also the ones who buy most books (I can't find the results on the Inet at the moment, sorry). My experience from the bookstore counter confirms that, too: I don't know how many times I had a discussion with a customer along the lines "I borrowed this book from the library and now I absolutely need to have more from same author/I want to buy the book".

    And let's not forget the long-term effects of school libraries: they are vital into introducing children to books, and children grow up to adults with work and income they can then spend on buying (and borrowing) books. That's why I get angry every time somebody suggest cutting funding to school libraries...


  66. This is a question I've thought about too. Back when I was a salaried, relatively rich, single working person, I disdained the public library. I thought the selection stank and was unaware of things like working hold systems and interlibrary loan requests that you could easily fill out online. So every other month I would go to my local independent bookstore, spend a hundred dollars or so on books, and come back to buy more once I'd read them all.

    Then I got married & became a stay-at-home mom and suddenly had no money of my own & hated asking for money from my then-husband. So the only way to get books was from the library. If it hadn't been for the library, I would have had a very hard time keeping up the pace of my reading. Thank God for the library! Not only did I keep up the pace, I actually ended up reading a lot more books than I otherwise would have.

    I still buy books, mainly as presents for other people and when the interlibrary loan system doesn't give me enough time to read harder-to-get books, and when I've just read them over and over and want my own copy. And I think I'm about to go back to regularly spending money on new books, now that my situation is once again changing from married stay-at-home mom to single working mom ... and some of my first purchases will be books I learned about through the library.

  67. I've been known to check out a book, love it, and then buy every title the author has in print. I've also been known to read the first page at the library (or the bookstore for that matter) and go "meh" and never consider that book again. On two occasions, I have bought books that were so horribly dreadful that I took them back to the store and demanded a refund, so the library would have saved a returned book, but not influenced the sale.

    All in all, I think author-loyalty is engendered by libraries, and that means more *career* sales, even if people don't buy that particular volume after reading in the library.

  68. As far as my own book-buying habits go, I am about 50-50 on whether to buy a book or check it out from the library. Most of my books are fiction/fantasy paperbacks, and so are some of the most inexpensive around. If I find a good deal (40% off, used, or Goodwill $2) and the book looks interesting, I'll most likely buy it.

    The library is my haven for: Non-fiction, hardbacks (which I'm waiting for paperback), other genres (books I've been recommended but aren't sure about). If I really enjoy a book at the library, I'll probably buy it (eventually, when I can find a sale). If a book was just "okay", I'll probably pass. If a book was harm done (to my wallet).

  69. I purchased about 35% of the books that are in my personal library (about 600 books) after checking out the public library's copy for the fourth or ninth time.