A Stimulus Proposal: Invest in Books

Daily (Kos logo)One of the great things about Citizen Journalism is that all of us can take what we think is a Good Idea and put it out into the blogosphere and see if it takes wings. One such idea was forwarded to me by my wonderful wife with the subject line “now this would be a good blog entry for the press”.

frodolives, a blogger over at DailyKos has an imaginative idea for part of the Stimulus Package: Invest in Books.

From his entry:

“a fund of two billion dollars a year to be distributed directly to all public libraries in the United States, for at least five years. (With, perhaps, another billion specifically for university libraries.) I suggest two billion because libraries need money for construction, jobs, equipment, etc. as much as they need money for books. So we give them two billion, and mandate that half of that be spent on books. On top of that we mandate that at least half of the money to be spent on books be spent directly in bookstores and not with either publishers or wholesalers. That’s what makes it a job maker.”

frodolives continues:

“Some points: first, it has to be over several years. Books are a seventeen billion dollar a year industry, so just one billion will have a significant impact on the industry. If, however, we just buy a billion dollars worth of books all at once, it will only serve to enrich the large corporations who own most major publishing houses. They’ll sell off their inventories, print the additional volumes they need, and consider it a windfall. But, if publishers know that this money will be spent every year, then they will need to keep buying new titles, which requires editors, marketing and distribution, new production, and so on.

That is also why there has to be the buy from bookstores clause. Bookstores themselves simply need the business, and will thereby be able to at least keep current employees employed. Beyond that there is a whole world of traveling sales reps who present the books to individual book stores, and, not so incidentally, spend a lot of time and money on the road, at hotels, restaurants, and so on.

It’s a classic case of real world trickle down. The librarians will keep their jobs, they’ll employ people directly and indirectly through construction, puchases of manufactured goods, and purchases of books, which in turn will promote job creation by publishers and booksellers.”

I’ll acknowledge that it’s a far from perfect idea, but I really like the concept. This support for the supply chain from Author to Publisher to Bookseller to Library reaches into the workforce in ways that the current economic Stimulus Package
does not. It also promotes Libraries as community learning centers through the infusion of books (and, presumably, other media) and the operating costs to properly advertise themselves to their communities.

And, as a member of a publishing house, I like the added job security it might provide to myself and my colleagues. That this idea came from someone not in publishing but affiliated with a book store, is also positive, in my mind. It’s an example of someone trying to work out a solution that will help all sorts of people within the community for both the short and long term.

— tom