Sunday, 11 May 2008

Book Swap

Jeanette Winterson has been sounding off about book-swapping, and has stirred up a fair bit of comment, so I'll put my own ha'p'orth in too.

Her position is ludicrous; authors are not being cheated in the slightest by book exchanges. The curious notion that a book should only be read by the original purchaser is about as daft as suggesting that cars should only be travelled in by the first owner. A book after all can only be read by one person at a time, quite unlike the comparison she makes with file sharing, where material is repeatedly duplicated. And it is a book on which the author has received a royalty.

Just suppose that Ms Winterson were taken with an urge to fling away a good part of that next large advance on an Aston Martin. Would she refuse to consider buying a used car on the basis that it cheats AML of their proper reward for having designed and built it? Of course she wouldn't. The only logical conclusion of Ms Winterson's rationale is that all second-hand trade, of any nature whatsoever, be banned. And that books should be burned as soon as they've been read.

Then of course she has a moan about royalty returns. That's a somewhat different matter, but the hard truth is that it is the writer who accepts the terms offered by a publisher, and they are not forced to. They can always look elsewhere or, since it has never been easier, elect to self-publish. Not whinge on about how hard done by they feel.

Ms Winterson's debut novel was terrific but lets face it the rest have been a sequence of dull, pretentious duds. If she doesn't like the idea of her books being swapped, she could always try writing ones that people want to keep.


monix said...

Well put, Stephen. I couldn't follow the logic of the article, which appeared to approve of donating books to charity shops and lending to friends but disapproved of swapping. I'm a great believer in recycling and I enjoy using ReaditSwapit for those books I know I'll never read again.

I haven't read any of Jeanette Winterson's books and I'm not tempted to now - even as a swap!

Stephen said...

Despite everything Maureen I'd still recommend Oranges are Not the Only Fruit; I'm sure you'd enjoy it. It's not the sort of book people would be inclined to swap though, unlike her others which I'd imagine struggle to find takers.

monix said...

I didn't realise she had written that one, Stephen. I looked her up and that didn't show on the list. I haven't read it but saw the dramatisation, not realising it was adapted from a novel. I'll go and have a rethink.