Authors for Libraries

Posted September 29, 2022
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Last month in our newsletter to members (join here so you don’t miss future news!), we shared a call to sign on to an open letter, organized by Fight for the Future, on behalf of authors in support of libraries. We’re really pleased to announce that this letter is now posted online and open for more signatures here. We encourage you to read it and sign if you support its message.

We’ve written quite a bit recently about the challenges libraries face today – from the lawsuit filed against the Internet Archive over controlled digital lending, to efforts to restrict libraries from preserving and lending ebooks. Just this week we saw one publisher, John Wiley & Sons, unilaterally yank 1,379 educational titles from library ebook collections (as far as we can tell, with no author input), refusing to sell electronic copies to libraries and forcing teachers and students to scramble for access just as the academic term begins.

From our perspective, libraries are critically important partners in making sure that authors’ works are read and preserved. As the letter explains, “Libraries are a fundamental collective good.” The letter’s signatories “are disheartened by the recent attacks against libraries being made in our name by trade associations such as the Association of American Publishers and the Publishers Association: undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smearing librarians.” 

Unfortunately, and predictably, the letter has received almost instant condemnation from the Authors Guild, the AAP (which, you might recall, has asserted that it has acted as legal counsel for the publishers who brought the Hachette v. Internet Archive lawsuit), and other related groups. They assert: 1) that authors don’t really understand what the Internet Archive controlled digital lending lawsuit is about, and if they did they wouldn’t support it,  and 2) that “real libraries” don’t engage in activities like the controlled digital lending that is the subject of the Internet Archive lawsuit. 

Neither argument holds weight. As part of our own efforts to support controlled digital lending in this case, Authors Alliance conducted a survey of our members and other authors. Responses showed that many authors do support CDL, and support it strongly. Additionally, many libraries across the country practice CDL: it is far from a practice unique to the Internet Archive.