Monday, November 8, 2021

New Zealand is Giving Away Books They Don't Own

 I'm going to do my best to present this calmly.

The government of New Zealand has decided to donate every book in the overseas collection of its National Library to the Internet Archive. 

Writers who do not want their books to be put up on the Web for free are being given the option of opting out. 

The people at the National Library have made no particular effort to make these two facts known. They posted this information online in October and writers wishing to opt out must respond by December 1.

For a list of all the books about to be given away and instructions on how to opt out, go to::

Non-New Zealand writers should check the list to see if any of their works are on it.
I've already sent the organization a letter directing them not to give away my novel Vacuum Flowers. My phrasing of the opt-out request may have been a touch harsh. But it was nothing compared to what I was thinking.

And as long as you're reading this . . .

If you are a writer or know a writer or think that the people who write books deserve to profit at least a little from their labor, please spread this information far and wide.

Thank you.




JJM said...

(N.B. -- Seeking clarification and not expressing disagreement.) Most of my life, I have worked in libraries, over a quarter century as a professional, thus that is the lens through which I view the situation: the Internet Archive allows users direct access rather than having to go through their respective libraries' interlibrary loan system. However, there is apparently no universal system in place for either the libraries or organizations like the Archive (or used book dealers, for that matter) to pay royalties. Copyright owners (who, by preference, are the authors and creators of the books) only derive profit from their initial sale of the book to their publishers and, through royalties, from the initial sales of their book to the readers.

As a librarian, I would argue that the digitization by a library or the Internet Archive constitutes a de facto new publication. (Certainly librarians catalogue a digitized copy as a separate edition.) There is, unfortunately, no system in place to secure the author's permission for this (although the digital rights could belong to the publisher instead), much less to recompense the author.

So: while, as a librarian, I am absolutely in favour of making all books more accessible to a wider reader base, I can well understand an author's frustration, indeed their fury, at how this is being achieved: at the expense of the author's rightful reward for their labour. To me, that is where the problem lies: not that organizations such as the Internet Archive are giving access through lending out digital copies of material, which is a good thing, but that the system involved bypasses the authors.

As Rachel Maddow is wont to ask: am I parsing the situation out correctly, or am I missing something?

Sandy said...

THIS IS INSANE!!! Does the U.S. State Department and our ambassador to NZ know about this? Or the diplomats of other countries??? How long does an author or a diplomat have to opt the books published in their county to opt out???

Stewart said...

This is not an accurate description of what is going on.

The title says that "New Zealand" is "giving away books they don't own" but the National Library of New Zealand is donating print copies of books they do, in fact, own. They aren't "giving away books they don't own" at all, but weeding unused print books that they have purchased from their collection.

I definitely get the frustration and anger and hurt (like JJM says) of my fellow authors (I'm an author and a librarian) over the internet archive and controlled digital lending, but if this blog post is the only thing you've read about it I would encourage you to go do some background reading before deciding that NZ is some kind of author-hating digital pirate.

Raskos said...

On another note...
Happy Birthday.