Author Scott Turow: Libraries are the enemy!

Tom Jackson
Apr 15, 2013


Author Scott Turow, who writes legal thrillers, recently wrote a long rant in the New York Times about "The Slow Death of the American Author." 

Mr. Turow has a long list of mostly wrongheaded gripes about the supposed dire plight of modern authors. For the most part, I agree with the rebuttal written by Mike Masnick of Techdirt. 

But as local libraries celebrate National Library Week, I want to highlight a paragraph Turow wrote about the supposed bad behavior of public libraries:

Now many public libraries want to lend e-books, not simply to patrons who come in to download, but to anybody with a reading device, a library card and an Internet connection. In this new reality, the only incentive to buy, rather than borrow, an e-book is the fact that the lent copy vanishes after a couple of weeks. As a result, many publishers currently refuse to sell e-books to public libraries.

This is a bizarre criticism. Long before the existence of ebooks, nobody ever had to pay for a book if he didn't want to. A reader could always check the book out of library if she didn't want to pay for it, and use interlibrary loan to obtain any book that wasn't on a local shelf. Readers who want to keep an ebook and be able to go back to it again and again will still have to buy it.

Most readers behave as I do: They borrow some of their books from the library and they buy some of them. Libraries aid the marketplace by bringing authors to the attention of readers. They particularly help little-known authors who aren't as rich and famous as Scott Turow.







Some people prefer books to e-books also. I guess I'm just old school but I like reading the old-fashioned way.

Kottage Kat

I have both, they each serve a purpose. Just can't beat curling up with a good book and turning the pages.
I read 3-5 books a week

Phil Packer

When things changed in the past, we didn't have these internet forums to discuss them like we do now.

Finn Finn

Happy to see the comments here. My husband thinks libraries are becoming dinosaurs. I hope he's wrong. I read about a book a week, and Thursday night is my "library night". I spend a couple of hours there just perusing. Nothing like getting lost in shelf after shelf of books. I prefer Non-Fiction and Literary Realism.

Kottage Kat

I use the Milan library, they are renovating so it is a wee bit confusing. Everyone is so helpful and they have great programs.
I read a eclectic series of books, like mysteries and biographies.
Wish we could get a blog going to see what folks are reading and some reviews.


Finn Finn

I like biographies also, as well as autobiographies. I just finished Beyond Belief: My Life Inside Scientology by Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of present Scientology leader David Miscavige. (also Tom Cruise's best man at his wedding to Katie Holmes) It was a very enlightening book.

Kottage Kat

I am housebound right now
Using phone, no internet till I can get back to library
Enjoying reading comments
Dick Francis is a favorite author


Mr. Jackson,

Thank you for writing the rebuttal to Scott Turow's recent NY Times column.

It's simply a ridiculous position. If any force in society is going to save the book (in whatever format, print and/or digital) and extend the value of literacy for future generations it will be public libraries. The marketplace will never be capable of providing the kind of broad access that you mention. It will never be able to inculcate that free-spirited love of reading because the spirit of profit will necessarily restrict access and narrow the field of interest.

If we're talking about the future of the book, a world without public libraries will offer a bland, homogenized pallet, where books with mass-market appeal will drown-out the mid and small presses and their authors.

Daniel Slife, Director
Huron Public Library
333 Williams St.
Huron, Ohio 44839
Tel (419) 433-5009


I love books, and I read them. A LOT of them. The only reason I don't use the Public Library is because they make you give the books back. :-)

I have a large library of my own of books I've read and loved. I re-read a surprising number of them.

But for those who just want to read a book, not keep it forever, NOTHING can replace the library. And that's true whether they choose to borrow a real book or they use an e-reader.

Mr. Turow needs to get it through his head that nothing has really changed. Books are still bought and paid for by libraries regardless of format, and they're still only on a short term loan to readers (who may very well decide to buy something they really like after having been first exposed to it at the library).

Kottage Kat

Cannot imagine life without libraries.
I am hooked on the books by JENNIFER CHIAVERINI, they are about a group of quilters, I don't quilt do love these books
Norwalk library is having a book sale may 2-4. This also good way to get books.
I 2 have tons of books
Keep a notebook of what I have read and those I want to read
Could go on forever on this subject
To Scott turow I say you are full of Bologna


Pterocarya frax...

And yet you said you would not vote for the Norwalk Library levy. And you refer to Obama as insincere and hypocritical?

Here it is in your own words:

Kottage Kat

I live in BM school district, cannot vote for Norwalkl library
Norwalk is just not on par with Milan Library
I know what said and I stand by that.
Anything else you would like to discuss?
Hope I have adequately answered your question.


Eda M. Handly

I wouldn't say libraries are the enemy, however, after reading his entire article in the Times, I have to agree to an extent. Writers don't just write for the "love" of it. Do you go to your job because you love what you do and expect no monetary reward? Of course you don't. Well, conventionally published authors and Indie authors don't simply write books because it makes them feel all fuzzy inside. Of course that's a part of writing, but we want to make a living from our work. Not to mention, writing a book is no small task. I think what he is saying is that libraries "loaning" eBooks is only adding to an already out of control problem with digital works, authors holding on to their copyright, and being paid what they are due.

Tom Jackson

I've deleted one of the earlier comments because it misrepresented who was posting the comment.


If someone doesn't want to be called out by name, then they probably shouldn't post a picture of themself as an avatar. And the "outer", while having a total right to be outraged by the comment of the "outee", did it merely to ask for input in a very nice way.

Pretty sad Tom.


First of all, the avatars here don't work. Often, when an avatar is chosen, the system replaces it with an image from somewhere else on the site. The post in question made no representations as to anyone's identity. The response expressed the library director's GUESS as to who it was. I'm not sure why anyone had any reason to be outraged by either comment.

Tom, I think you owe everyone an explanation, and both of the deleted comment authors an apology.


In what way did it misrepresent who was posting? The deleted comment didn't say anything about who was posting?


P. frax understand that's not the 1rst time. While the Good Book is just that, it has been used in the past to suit ones agenda. Errrr. Go figger, most hate facts.


Libraries are not our enemy. They are a very good source of information in many ways. Just because you don't buy the book doesn't mean you are hurting anyone. You have to give it back so the next inquisitive person can gain as much information or more, than you.

We all pay for the library with taxes....USE IT! I've learned many things going to the library. So much that I could never explain here. For example, if you are doing your own car repair and you run into something you don't quite understand. You can go buy a Chilton repair manual for several hundred dollars, or go to the library and have that "once used" info for a nominal fee in taxation. It's way cheaper than going to school, as well.

If you take my library away from me, and I will hunt you down and kill you...:) Just kidding, of course. It is that important to keep those houses of learning, though.

Kottage Kat

Woe is me, the Milan library is going to be closed may and June.
Have to work on an alternative plan
May 15 author at Berlin heights discussing her book on underground railroad.
She mentions several local towns.
Should be a good program