D.C. Reid, a past president of both the Federation of B.C. Writers and the League of Canadian Poets, has taken B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell “ and, by extension, the province’s librarians and publishers “ to task for greenlighting the B.C. Books Online project. As you may recall, the project, which debuted in beta form last May, took 650 non-fiction titles by various B.C. publishers and made them available for free online through 12 library websites. Here’s Reid’s open letter to Campbell:
I am writing to let you know that if you want B.C. writers to be positive about your Beta Project that took 650 of our books “ most for free “ and put them on the internet, you will have to pay us. A digital book can be loaned to anyone on the planet, and the author will never sell another book.
I suggest $10,000 per book and $2,000 per year per book. This works out to a $6.5 million initial payment, with a further $1.3 million per year. This is fair for a project that reputedly cost $13 million, and because everyone else involved with this project gets paid. None of the writers I contacted have been paid. Most have not heard of the program. You need to pay us, too.
Reid’s points on the lack of financial support for writers are well taken, but it should be noted that all of the authors involved were contacted by their respective publishers and (presumably) agreed to take part. Also, once the beta period is over, the authors will receive the usual library royalty payments. In any case, the suggestion that the province hand out $10,000 per book is so removed from reality that it kind of undermines Reid’s argument, no?