This question has been asked by music composers and consumers alike for decades. A similar quandary exists between authors and library patrons. Does having a book in the library lower sales? On the surface,both answers seem to be, “yes.”
I used to borrow library records back in the spring of 1978. Being unemployed, I lacked the money to buy LPs or cassettes. In the process of borrowing and taping these records, I became acquainted with a plethora of obscure groups and soloists.
Many of these bands were from Germany and recorded the most astonishing music I’d ever heard. I had known about Kraftwerk but groups such as Frumpy, Amon DʚʚL II, Faust, Can, and Harmonia opened my ears to a wonderful new sound called Krautrock. I borrowed every record that the library had from those bands, plus those of single artists.
When I found a job and had worked for a few years, I began wanting the albums. The tapes were nice but I didn’t have the higher-quality LPs, along with the artwork and album texts. I ended up buying most of the albums I once borrowed.
Though print books are difficult for me to read, I’m now considering e-books. Like the clerk at the bank who I discussed this topic with, I buy audio books from authors whose work I enjoy. Some stories are so good that I can hear them over and over without becoming bored. Though I borrow from the CNIB talking book library, stories that move me emotionally tend to be the ones I end up buying.
Over the years, artists and authors have striven to have the government compensate them for lost sales. In the early nineties, a tax was placed on blank cassettes. I was fortunately to receive a cheque from SOCAN, Canada’s performing arts lobby group, because I registered my electronic music compositions with them. Likewise, the Canadian Council for the Arts convinced the federal government to compensate authors for losses due to books being in public libraries. I have benefited from this too. Nevertheless, the public decides which music albums or books ultimately sell.
The music and publishing businesses are alive and well today. People still visit theatres, even though some folks said DVDs would kill that business. Neither did television and radio harm movie or music sales. I’ve heard talk that e-books will kill paperback purchases. Time will tell. I believe that people will still want paper books long into the future.
As for my three books, my first two are featured on the Bruce Atchison’s books page. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, my recently-published memoir, is distributed through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm. And yes, some public libraries have my books in their collections.