Tech

1000+ Authors Speak Out For The Digital Future Of Libraries, Ask Publishers To Halt Harmful Actions & Rhetoric


Signed by a vast and diverse list of authors, the letter decries conduct from major publishers and trade associations, including their lawsuit against the Internet Archive, demanding that they cease efforts to undermine the essential contributions of libraries to an accessible and inclusive world of books.

Over 1000 authors have joined Neil Gaiman, Alok Menon, Naomi Klein, Saul WilliamsHanif Abdurraqib, Lawrence LessigChuck Wendig, and Cory Doctorow in signing an open letter defending libraries’ role in the digital age. The letter originally debuted on September 29th, 2022 with 300 signatures. Over 700 additional authors have signed on since that time.

The Digital Future Of Libraries

Authors name among their concerns a broad fight over digital lending that seems destined for the US Supreme Court, as well as Association of American Publishers’ President and CEO Maria Pallante recently characterizing librarian advocates as “mouthpieces” for Big Tech. Authors make three demands of major publishers, distributors, and trade associations:

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  1. Enshrine the right of libraries to own, preserve, and loan books on reasonable terms regardless of format
  2. End lawsuits aimed to intimidate libraries or diminish their role in society
  3.  Halt industry-led smear campaigns against librarians

In response to the letter, industry trade associations issued false statements, including the false assertion that authors were “misled” into signing on.

The full text of the letter, full list of signatories, as well as a form for more authors to sign on, is available at http://FightForTheFuture.org/Authors-For-Libraries.

The letter reads in part:

“Libraries are a fundamental collective good. We, the undersigned authors, are disheartened by the recent attacks against libraries being made in our name by trade associations such as the American Association of Publishers and the Publishers Association: undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smearing librarians.“

Among the diverse array of notable new signatories are bestselling authors James Lee Burke; Matt Forbeck; Karen Joy Fowler, and Mercedes R Lackey; award-winning authors Cecil Castellucci, Eleanor DavisMichael DeForgeUrsula HegiE.C. MyersAngel Nafis, Mary Doria Russell, and Saskia Vogel; Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre; Vermont Poet Laureate Luisa A. Igloria; official Nelson Mandela biographer Charlene Smith; Danish Feminist icon Tania Ørum; Guggenheim fellows Patricia Aufderheide and Laurence Senelick; celebrated academic Dr. Noura Erakat; and founder of the Wikipedia library Jake Orlowitz.

Author Chuck Wendig said: “Libraries and librarians are champions of both the under-served reader and the under-seen writer. I used to work in the public library, and I cherished that the library helped writers find readers, and readers to find writers — and writers of every level, to boot, from midlist or bestseller or debut. It is vital we make sure these seeds are planted, watered, and allowed to grow unhindered.”

Author Cory Doctorow, whose forthcoming book Chokepoint Capitalism with fellow signatory Rebecca Giblin explores the harms of big content to creators, said: “Anyone who tells you libraries and authors are on the opposite side of *any* issue has grossly misunderstood the nature of libraries, or authors, or both. We are class allies and artistic comrades-in-arms.”

Author, PEN/Hemingway award winner, and first trans woman nominee for the Women’s Book Award Torrey Peters said:  “I flat-out owe my career as a trans author to the unimpeded circulation of digital books: the first trans books that inspired me were digital, my own first books were published digitally.

Bookstores didn’t carry our books at first. Therefore, any readers that have felt their own emotions changed by my published work–no matter in what medium–ultimately also owe that change to digital books. Everybody benefits when digital books are accessible.”

Author and Guggenheim Fellow Patricia Aufderheide said: “Libraries are “palaces for the people,” as the title of Eric Klinenberg’s book says so well. They are learning spaces, safe spaces, caring spaces, and public spaces.

They allow members of the public to see themselves as equal to others and welcomed into this space. Libraries’ ability to collect, preserve, and share resources is a sine qua non of democracy. Bullies who pick on libraries are anti-democratic.”

Lia Holland, Campaigns and Communications Director of digital rights nonprofit Fight for the Future and lead organizer of the letter, said: “In the face of a rising tide of book bans and defunding of diverse and inclusive education, it is disappointing to see major publishers to attempt to squeeze the traditional roles of libraries out of our digital future.

Already, cities and towns are banning life-saving diverse stories and threatening access to information on abortion and other essential healthcare.

The Association of American Publishers even gave their 2022 Distinguished Public Service Award to Senator Tom Tillis, notorious for his extensive record of anti-LGBTQ+ policy and racist rhetoric, as well as for cosponsoring a bill to defund 1619 Project Curriculum.

It is clear that the values of these trade associations are deeply misaligned with the values of the literary community.”

Bestselling Author Matt Forbeck said: “Libraries were a formative part of me learning to read, and they should be free for all forever.”

Author Jeffery M. Reynolds said: “Copyright has in the past century been twisted to benefit corporations and other businesses, not creators and their estates, nor libraries who serve a public interest.

It is high time to review how we have turned our system away from allowing the spread of knowledge while ensuring artists get duly paid into one where the wealthy extract endless rent from the hard work of others and limit public access to that knowledge.”

Poet Yesika Salgado said: “Without libraries my peers and myself wouldn’t have had the access to literature that we identify with and encouraged us to tell our own stories. To restrict their abilities to loan books is to stifle voices like ours “

New York Times bestselling author Scott Carney said: “Libraries are a vital institution to cultivate engaged readers.  Allowing them to carry books in formats that readers actually use only helps authors. Not allowing libraries to function puts the control of reading into the hands of big tech companies.”

Author Marianne Díaz Hernández said: “Libraries are the guardians and the bulwark of cultural diversity and inclusion, particularly for those who don’t have the means to access culture by other pathways.

They are the place where people, particularly children, can access books and other materials about the topics that concern them, embarrass them, or that they don’t feel that they can talk with anyone else.

The status of libraries as a place free of censorship and surveillance, to seek knowledge we need and stories that reflect us, is one of the keystones of a free, open, and democratic society, and every inch that we lose in this battle contributes to the disintegration of civic space.”

Author Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez and founder of Latina Rebels said: “Libraries should be protected, it is how I first discovered my love of reading. There is no me the author without public libraries.”

Author Elizabeth Kate Switaj said: “I write because I want to be read. My most recently published book is on the Internet Archive—and that delights me. I also make use of online archival material frequently in my creative and critical work.

Moreover, as a college administrator in a  small-island state (or, more accurately, a Big Ocean Nation), I know how important electronic resources are to global access and equity.”

Dan Gillmor, author and cofounder of News Co/Lab, an initiative to elevate news literacy and awareness at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said: “Big Publishing would outlaw public libraries of it could — or at least make it impossible for libraries to buy and lend books as they have traditionally done, to enormous public benefit — and its campaign against the Internet Archive is a step toward that goal.”

Award-winning author David Weinberger said: “Publishers trying to limit the reach of libraries are hastening the death of literacy, of book culture, and of community pride in their educated differences.”

Author, and Faculty Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Sasha Costanza-Chock said: “It’s absolutely shameful that publishers would try to destroy the efforts of the Internet archive. The future is open access publishing!”

Author Ernie Smith said: “Closing off libraries to fair access in the digital age closes off one of the most important tools for research we have. The Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending approach is an excellent way to quickly research topics from primary sources that may not have digital equivalents.

The library should be allowed to reasonably keep up with the times, and we should not allow publishers to attempt to redefine it just because the format is changing.”

Award-winning poet and Guggenheim Fellow Philip Metres said: “The public library, to me, is the closest thing to a church for everyone–a place where people seek stories and answers to every question under the sun. Those who threaten that sacred space, who seek to reduce access to that temple of learning and exploration, are a danger to democracy itself.”

Author Mirta Wake said: “Retracting the ability to read from the poor will not net you more sales, it will simply limit the reach that your work could have.

Libraries that lend e-books tend to require those borrowing to have devices to read them on, while the electronic lending of books as if they were physical ones via a PDF allows you to access the book no matter what device you are using to read on.

Furthermore taking down Internet Archive and forcing all into physical libraries to borrow physical books fails to account for a) the mobility status of the borrower (are they even able?) and b) the availability of libraries in their area in the first place as more and more libraries disappear off the map to never re-appear ever again.”

Author and Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens Douglas Rushkoff said: “Libraries rule. They are the clearest example of a commons that we can point to.”

Author Ashton Applewhite said: “Preserving traditional library rights is essential for free speech and the transmission of information in the digital age.”

Author Diana Rosen said: “Eternal vigilance is essential not for our democratic principles but for access to information, the key to an informed and responsive public. Long live our public libraries!”

Author Alex Benedict said: “Growing up in Brecksville, Ohio, my local parks system and library were my refuges. Beyond demanding that libraries be able to purchase books for permanent use in any format as well as be protected from lawsuits and harassment, I hope that small presses can establish closer relationships with libraries.

Cleveland publisher and poet d.a.levy freely shared his books with many libraries across and beyond Ohio. Although many libraries may be resistant to alternative forms of literature, small presses and authors can set an example against conglomerate publisher financialization by taking sharing books with libraries.”

Poet and co-organizer Jonathan Mendoza said: “I want a future in which authors and artists are fairly compensated for their work and where their works can still be affordable and accessible to everyone most affected by capitalism and inequity.

Libraries, and their ability to lend e-books in a reasonable manner, are key to this outcome. The ever-more-common profit-driven efforts of major publishers to drive up the cost to access literature should distress us all. I encourage authors to join this letter in support of libraries and of the more equitable and accessible future that our works so often seek to build.”

Engineer, VTuber, comedian, voice-over artist, digital content creator, and author Margaret Gel said: “Humanity will never be free, never colonize the stars, never advance as a species, as a people, as a civilization, as long as information remains shackled by Capitalism.”

Author and retired University of Oklahoma Professor Laura Gibbs said: “I make sure to upload all the books for which I control the rights to the Internet Archive: it’s the library I use most, and I am proud to see my books there.”

Prof. Dr. Ellen Euler said: “Libraries are crucial for a functioning democratic knowledge society. In times of multi-crises and populist propaganda, they should be able to fulfill their mission in the best possible way, including via digital and networked media!”

Author and poet Dominick Knowles said: “Solidarity with library workers, archivists, and all those who make public knowledge possible against the privatizing forces of capital.”

Author Robert Berger said: “Enough of Corporations trying to shove Artificial Scarcity down our throats!”

Author Steven K. Stroh said: “The Internet Archive is an absolute treasure of the modern era. As an author, I want my works to be made widely available to the public, in perpetuity, through non-commercial organizations such as Internet Archive.”

Author Jerry Michalski said: “Through their overzealous overprotection of intellectual property, the copyright industries have set civilization back considerably. Profit maximization and collective intelligence are at odds with each other.”

Author Ricardo Dominguez said: “Free Archives are the only manner of making sure that information will be available to all people now and in the future. We cannot fully depend on current and developing platforms for pay-only access to make knowledge available to all.”

Author Chris Tilly said: “Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy. They are at their best when they introduce people to new ideas, so it is critical that they present diverse views and experiences, and provide a wide range of published work.”

Sean O’Brien of Yale Privacy Lab said: “Just as the printing press and pamphleteers democratized the sharing of text and artwork centuries ago, we must fight to ensure that 21st Century reading and sharing includes creation and dissemination of digital copies as well as backups of books.

Libraries are a public institution we should cherish, and librarians must be supported in their mission to archive and distribute public knowledge and creative works.”

Poet and writer Raina J. León said: “Ideas, imagination, compassion, community are the ways of life. Let us walk with that alignment and attunement!”

Author Jeff Sharlet said: “Libraries saved my life as a young reader, and I’ve seen them do as much and more for so many others. At a time when libraries are at the frontlines of fascism’s assault on democracy, it is of greater importance than ever for writers to stand in solidarity with librarians in defense of the right to share stories. Democracy won’t survive without it.”

Author Erin Taylor said: “The Internet Archive is a public good. Libraries are a public good. Only the most intellectually deprived soul would value profit over mass access to literature and knowledge.”

Author Kate Bornstein said: “I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. There was no internet, but there was the Asbury Park Public Library. That’s where I discovered books about the Weimar Republic, Magnus Hirschfeld, and American ex patriots living in Paris.

I learned the word invert, and I knew that was me. It was a public library that laid open my horizons. with today’s attacks on LGBTQ people, we need libraries now more than ever.”

Author Mike Godwin said: “When you consider how many library patrons will become (or already are) lifetime book buyers, the shortsightedness of the publishers who attack libraries and librarians is stark.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the librarians by temperament and training are used to taking the long view. America, I’m putting my geek shoulder to the wheel in support of librarians. (The librarians will quickly catch the allusion.)”

Author Zin E. Rocklyn said: “We must support libraries, librarians, and what they stand for: the freedom of diverse education.”

Author Andrea Vocab Sanderson said: “Representation is so important. Empowering people to share their narratives with the largest audience possible will be the most impactful for all generations.”

Author Rafael J. González said: “Libraries are sacrosanct keepers of the word; nothing must stand in the way of their sacred function.”

Author Bruce Edwards said: “Libraries are essential to the life of a civilization. As more and more of the population accesses its information electronically, it is just as vital to have free and open access to digital books as physical books.

Without access to the world of ideas and the flow of information, the world will become barren of freedom of thought and inspiration. Corporations are already doing plenty to ensure the destruction of the world with their zero-sum ideology.

Libraries – and FREE access to books – is the only bulwark the majority of the world has against the overwhelming thought process of our time: more for me, less for you.”

Author Jim Alan said: “For many people today, libraries are their only access to books and information. For many others, such as myself for example, they served as matchmakers by introducing readers to new authors.

I discovered Robert Jordan in such a manner and now own the entire Wheel of Time. As a soon-to-be-punished author, I hope my books are found in the same way, to become just as cherished.

Libraries are one of the most important linchpins to a free, fair, and informed society. They are hallowed and, dare I say it, storied institutions that should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Author Kat Fury said: “As an author it is embarrassing to see any publishers behaving in this manner. Libraries allow people to find stories. The business aspect follows, a reader for a book is a reader for another. The love of reading means often buying books when you can. Give access and it brings money.”

Author Victoria Hansen said: “I am a young playwright who depends on libraries and open information to write my monologues. If that were to disappear, I wouldn’t be able to write the way I do.”

Author Bradford McCormick, Ed.D. said: “Libraries are especially important for persons who cannot afford to buy the books they read and who therefore would not contribute to authors’ royalties even without libraries, but who would be more intellectually (spiritually) in addition to already being financially impoverished, without libraries.”

Author Alexander von Essen said: “Fight further dismantling of human knowledge! We need more libraries, not more Amazons!”

Author Sydney Bredenberg said: “Keep libraries free. The free discussion of individual ideas benefits everyone in a free society.”

Author Manoj Barpujari said: “Libraries are symbols of human history and accomplishments. Libraries represent civil norms and beauty. Why on earth they shouldn’t be preserved and enhanced as centres of knowledge, learning, aesthetics and reservoirs of what civilisations achieved so far?”

Author David Abel said: “As a published author, professional editor, small press publisher, and bookstore owner for more than thirty years in states across the country, I have seen that libraries are indispensable to the health of both literature and society as a whole, and they cannot serve the broad public that need them most without support from all quarters — especially from those who are in the best position to support, not antagonize them.

The corporate publishers who are squeezing libraries for digital titles would have no market whatsoever if not for a century and a half of free public library service.”

Author Wesley Parish said: “Growing up in the Papua New Guinean bush it began to bother me about the same time it began to bother Jared Diamond and Yali, and a whole lot of other folk in PNG as well, about why the Europeans were so much better equipped than the Papua New Guineans.

One aspect of the answer, which occurred to me in High School in Canberra a few years later, was that Europeans were able to record information, so they could do things with it that were impossible without such information storage in the form of books.

Then later I discovered that the monastic dissolution ordered by one of the English kings had eradicated a majority of their libraries. And likewise the destruction of the Library of Alexandria had erased a significant amount of information about the past – primarily ancients’ self-knowledge, because the storage of information had already led to an increase in scientific information.

The parallel between the restraint of trade in the form of knowledge that these lawsuits represent, and the burning of physical libraries at various times, is disturbing to contemplate.”

Author Roger Bird said: “My books are published under a Creative Commons Licence so I have no objection to non commercial use. The Internet Archives are the major source for my historical research.”

Author Marie Farge said: “Ideas and scientific results are not of the same nature as material products, because when we share them, we do not lose them. Knowledge is therefore not a product to be sold, but a common good to be shared freely.”

Author Stephen Robertson said: “I’ve donated copus of my two books to local libraries. The books encourage people to read. Libraries share knowledge. It’s a win-win for us all, because it opens authors to new readers, and readers to new authors!”

Author Anna Witoniak said: “For civilisation to flourish all people need access to information and various points of view.”

Author Joe Forrest said: “Stories are meant for everyone, not the privileged. They are the glue that holds our society together. Stop this madness.”

Author George Neville-Neil said: “Libraries are how I and most other authors learned to write. Strangling libraries cuts off the very air that young and aspiring authors breathe.”

Author Christine Minton Anderson said: “I teach the world and would like my work to be available to all. I’m not able to travel far and wide to satisfy my eclectic reading interests. Libraries and librarians are my heroes.

I chose a university based on the library and one of the highlights of my life was being able to spend time in the rare books room reading all of Vardis Fisher’s novels. I would not want to have books like these unavailable to readers.”

Author and past president of the Michigan Press Association W. Edward Wendover said: “Publishers who fight libraries are shortsighted or putting profits ahead of public good. We fought this battle early on with newspaper publishers too.”

Author Leyla Oya said: “Society can only grow through education. The system is already geared to prevent those in communities from having proper access to the tools of learning. Do not be a part of that system.

Allow ALL no matter their background, race, gender, sex etc. to thrive in the beauty of a library. For where there are libraries there is true equality. There is the opportunity to thrive, engineer, and create. Give the generations present and future the option and ability to open their own doors towards knowledge.”

Author B.M. Francisco said: “One of the fondest memories I have as a child is going to the school library or the local public library to check out a book. It was so wonderful to read about characters such as Pippi Longstockings, Madeline, or Charlotte and feel a connection with them.

To this day, I still hold dear those darling little white books by Beatrix Potter and the stories she shared via the pages of a book. Please do not deny future cherished memories from being made simply by going to the library.”

Author Diego Luis Morales Rivera said: “Libraries are indispensable to my research as an independent scholar. We must protect them, their staff, and the people they serve.”

Author Ann Franchi said: “I have discovered so many great authors through libraries. Authors whose books I have gone on to buy. Authors whose books I would never have bought, had it not been for libraries.”

Author Nakisha Smith said: “It is heinous to think that libraries would be put on trial! Music was taken out of schools, women’s rights overturned, and now this attack on libraries? People attend colleges to obtain degrees in Library Sciences. A person who would say something like this to a library has low regard for social, cultural, and ethical values.”

Author Kezia Thompson said: “Libraries are important. I’ve read most, or all, of the books I’ve drawn inspiration from, from the library. Support our libraries! We won’t be the same without them.”

Author Sandra John said: “Libraries have a sacred trust to preserve the records of human life and thought. They are an essential public service. Publisher’s have a part to play in that and should be supporting, not undermining, libraries. Shame on them for putting (unjustifiable) private profits before the public good.”

Author Marilyn Montalvo said: “Any attempt to restrict access to library resources and collection development by any means is in violation of the right to information granted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an assault to democracy.”

Author Jim Dawson said: “The internet archive keeps the learning key to human advancement alive. The archive actively fosters freedom of thought, which outweighs any pecuniary concern.”

Author Mary Fitzpatrick said: “My love of learning and my love of the written word were first fostered in a small-town library. Librarians are the saints of literacy, and libraries are the churches. ENABLE THEM for a stronger democracy, smarter populace, upward mobility, and richer arts!”

Author Maude Pagan said: “Books are our future. Librarians are the keepers of the past, present, and future. Help people to continue to freely access books, no matter the format, so that humanity may continue to teach and learn.”

Author Ariadne Ross said: “The Internet Archive is an indispensible resource for everyone, but especially so for those of us who live abroad and have little if any access to books in our native languages.”

Author Dan Lee said: “Readers who might otherwise not be afforded the ability to read, experience, and broaden their horizons deserve to have access without threats or intimidation from corporations and politicians acting in the interest of financial gain.”

Author Renée Hornischfeger said: “Aside from all the aforementioned reasons, let us not forget that libraries are a public place that can bring people together (Authors for book signings, students for study groups, etc) my father took my siblings and I to libraries when we were little to A: develope a love for books.

B: have a fun, quiet, safe place to bond (we couldn’t always afford amusement parks and the like). Libraries make us all family to some extent, through our mutual love of reading.”

Author Duygu Nur Arabaci said: “Academic texts like articles and books usually are behind exorbitant fees, rendering a lot of them inaccessible to the public. While the authors are usually not being paid anything at all to write and peer review these articles and book chapters. The profits that publishers make should not be at the cost of people the text is meant to reach, and the people who create the work.”

Author Harmony Williams said: “Libraries are the pillars of our communities. They’re a solace in times of need and a way to open our minds to the realities other people face. The fact that publishers see an opportunity for profit in that is sickening and it has to stop.”

Author John Daily said: “The majority of my first play, So Long, Mr. Broadway, was written in libraries across New York state. Indeed, it’s where I prefer to do most of my writing. Once silent sanctums of the “shush!”, libraries are now living, thriving communities, each with its own personality. They deserve to be recognized, respected, and preserved.”

Author Timothy Royce said: “An attack on libraries is an attack on humanity, and humanity needs desperately to evolve past the selfishness and elitist atrocities perpetuated by capitalism.

Author Melara Dark said: “Books are the gateways to other worlds, and libraries are the hub that launches us through these gateways, connecting us not only to what it means to be human inside ourselves, but what it means to be human in the wider universe.

To shackle and extort libraries is to shackle and distort the quintessential nature of what it means to be human; to erase the precious decorations we add to our lives that make it so we can thrive and not just survive.”

Published First on ValueWalk. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko; Pexels; Thank you!

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