Ask BHP: What Do You Think About Libraries?

Another year, another series of monthly Ask BHP posts! We got some great ones in our survey (feel free to add more anytime), and here’s our first: “Since libraries provide books to people for free, are libraries a benefit or detriment for authors and publishers?”

Almost every publishing employee and author you meet sincerely loves libraries. This is not just a line we use when speaking to a crowd of librarians, or a crowd that might possibly contain a librarian, or a crowd where someone might quote us to a librarian friend of theirs. We really mean it.

Now, we might be slightly biased, since authors and publishing employees are devoted “book people” who often practically grew up in a library. Objectively, though, libraries are helpful to publishers. Here are a few reasons why.

One of my favorite library-related cartoons ever.

One of my favorite library-related cartoons ever.

First, libraries buy books. They have a budget set aside for that purpose. Your tax dollars at work, making the public literate, exposing people to great works of literature and fun pieces of entertainment, and keeping kids off the streets and safely tucked inside adventure novels for days at a time (or was that just me?). Even when the economy is down and bookstores decline, libraries stay fairly constant in the amount of money they send our way.

That said, certain authors/series/genres do tend to do better in libraries than others. Sometimes the reason is easily discernible, sometimes it’s a mystery. Overall, though, the sales groups that handle library orders show up in our top customers all the time.

Second, libraries introduce people to authors. As I think through my personal shelves, many of the books there were ones I first checked out of the library. Recommendations from friends are all well and good, but I am a choosy reader. I prefer to read before I buy…but I do buy. Like me, many readers will buy an author’s book or entire backlist after finding a book they love at the library.

As for the most voracious patrons whose library cards have long faded due to over-use and who never purchase an actual book for themselves…if the library wasn’t there, maybe they’d buy more books. Or maybe they’d borrow from friends or buy used or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. It’s just to say that there’s no evidence that library usage corresponds to a loss of potential sales.

Third, libraries contribute to a general love of books. That seems vague, but hear me out. Libraries teach children to be readers, so they’ll grow up to contribute to book sales when they’re older. They also host book signing events and author chats, sponsor book clubs, recommend and display their favorite novels, a provide a space for readers to pursue the best hobby around…all of which tends to lead to more sales for us.

And if that went from “vague” to “money-grabbing” for you, just a reminder that even publisher—and even people on the marketing “dark side” of publishers—do love books. That’s why we’re here. And while there are bottom-line reasons we’re glad libraries stay in business, mostly, we just can’t imagine life without them.


So, if you’re a librarian, here’s a heartfelt thanks for all you do! Keep supporting books, readers, and authors. And if you’re a reader, don’t forget to request your favorite authors from your local library (even if you already own the books) so others can enjoy them.

19 thoughts on “Ask BHP: What Do You Think About Libraries?

  1. Yes! I would add that people who fall in love with a book they checked out at the library often turn around and tell all their novel-reading friends about the book they loved. They support books through word of mouth, which is invaluable.
    Librarians, thank you for the work you do!

  2. True true to all..and love that cartoon. The library is where I found the first Christian Fiction I’ve read and loved it. I was hooked. I didn’t know there was such a genre!! Then now, I would also buy books based on the ones I’ve borrowed. Great post. Thanks!

  3. I love to read but have a limited budget and can’t afford to buy books. If my library doesn’t have a book I would like to read, I request an inter-library loan or the purchase of the book. Either way, frequently the library will purchase it. If the book proves to be popular at the library, and it is part of a series, the library is more likely to buy future books in the series or by the author.

    My library’s website is interactive, and encourages readers to post reviews. When I enjoy a book, I submit reviews, with hopes it will encourage other readers to try it. When website users search for an individual book, reviews automatically appear along with the book’s description. Website visitors can also browse a list of books recently reviewed.

    Of course I tell my friends and family about books I have enjoyed. I hope that all of these efforts help readers to learn of books they will enjoy, and help authors, publishers, book sellers, etc as well.

  4. I love my local library. They have many Christian Fiction and that is all I read. I order them on the computer from home and they call me when they come to “my” library. That way when I find an author that I like, I order all the books they have. It’s great! I have loved the library since the small library in the one room school where I went as a child.

  5. I’ve found so many more authors to love thanks to libraries! Otherwise I would probably never have tried them and subsequently purchased their backlists. Libraries provide such a safe place to explore literature. Even when I do read read a book I’m not impressed with, I can bring it back and not have the burden of having wasted precious book budget.

    Then of course there’s the worlds of non-fiction and obscure titles and long out-of-print books . . . while they may not be available in store or on Amazon for less than a fortune(if available at all), the library can almost always magically scrounge up a copy!

    • Great point on books that are no longer available in print, Rachael! Forgot to add that one, along with books that you just need for a quick reference. Hooray for libraries!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  6. I enjoy going to the library once in awhile to get a few books to read. They always have such a great collection of books sometimes it’s hard to decide what books to borrow first. 🙂

  7. I can’t begin to share all the wonderful things my local library has done for me over the years. Last year alone I learned to knit, make a hypotufa container for my plants, met a new local author, took a historic field trip, and listened to some very talented children perform music. And that is in addition to the books, audio books, ebooks, and DVDs they’ve loaned me. The library is a blessing to our community!!!!

    • Wow, those are some great programs! I went to a forensic seminar at my library recently, and it was fascinating. (I also had to look up what a hypotufa container was…very cool!)

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  8. I am a retired librarian and I love your responses to this question. As one of the people who purchased for our library I can verify that if a patron purchased one book that they loved and then requested more this was almost always an automatic addition to our collection. We tried to use our taxpayer dollars to the best advantage. I was also the Adult programmer so I often had Author Booktalks and I even sponsored one Book Fair before I retired. These events always created book sales for the authors. Anytime a special program was offered there was usually an effort to add books that would help our patrons increase their knowledge. With the current economic conditions in our country all of us are blessed to have public libraries to offer us the materials that will offer us enjoyed and enrichment!

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