Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cuts, cuts and more cuts

Along with all the concerns about PLRlibrary cuts are also being announced. In the light of cuts that are being made to child benefit and housing, this might seem a lightweight issue, but it is a very disurbing one. If libraries buy fewer books and are open for fewer hours, and cuts are made to PLR, then money will be taken directly out of writers' pockets. With most of us having to do other things to supplement our income from writing anyway, this is bad news indeed.

I wonder if the root of the problem might be that since the writers that make the headlines tend to be those that make huge amounts of money, there is a public perception that writing is a well-paid job. In fact, research commissioned by the soon-to-be-defunct Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) shows that the top 10% of writers earn more than half the total pot. Only 20% of authors earn their living solely from writing, and a typical professional writer earns around one third less than the national average wage. (I aspire to earning that much!!!)

Then there's the subject of books. Books aren't a luxury, in my opinion, they are a necessity. Writers help us to make sense of the world we live in, they take global issues and distil them into personal experiences that we can relate to, they take us to other countries - other worlds, in some cases - and broaden our horizons, they enrich our lives immeasureably. Then there is the fact that those of us who read tend to use language better, whether written or spoken. Readers get a feel for words that those who don't read cannot possibly experience. And when so many other things are being cut and money is tight, people can't afford to buy as many - if indeed any - books themselves and arguably would rely on their public library more than ever before!

I can't help but wonder how those people making the decisions, with their position of wealth and privilege, can understand what they actually mean for the rest of us. I shouldn't think any one of them has to pause with his or her hand halfway towards a book - or a pair of shoes, or a bottle of wine - and think: 'No, I can't afford that now'. Maybe they should commission a writer to take these national issues and distil them into personal experiences: perhaps then they'd get a handle on just how destructive they are being!

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