Authors seek compensation for library e-books and audiobooks

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A leading Australian author group has called on the federal government to update a vital program, established by the Whitlam government, that pays writers for their physical books held in libraries – but ignores popularity growing electronic books and audio books.

The lending rights scheme, expanded by the Howard government to include educational institutions, distributes about $ 22 million annually among more than 17,000 applicants, based on a survey that counts how many of their books are getting finding it on library shelves, on the premise that authors should be made up for lost sales to library readers.

Brisbane-based author Nick Earls.Credit:Jocelyne Garcia

“It saves you time to write, and I think it’s a really valuable thing,” said popular humorous fiction writer Nick Earls, whose Empires pursues a 25-year writing career.

“You have this amount of money coming in June every year, and you know you can count on it. There are authors who are career writers, who publish books fairly regularly and have a readership but who are not Trent Dalton. You teach and talk about your books in schools, run writing workshops, and end up with this portfolio work with income from many different sources.

“But if you want to write the next book, you actually need time to clear your head and sit down and focus on the next book – and [lending rights] can be an important contributor to this.

Markus Zusak, author of the phenomenally successful film The Book Thief, said lending the rights money from her previous young adult novels came in handy during her writing.

Author Markus Zusak in the Mitchell Reading Room at the NSW State Library.

Author Markus Zusak in the Mitchell Reading Room at the NSW State Library.Credit:Tim bauer

“I wouldn’t say that I never could have written The Book Thief without [lending rights money] but it certainly made it easier, ”he said. “What I love about this program is that it just gives you a little more time and space to do what you love, which helps – it has helped me to follow my ambitions as a than a writer a little longer. “

But the program, while valuable, is flawed, said Olivia Lanchester, CEO of the Australian Society of Authors. The survey that divides the fund does not recognize holdings of eBooks and audiobooks.

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