Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Of Libraries, LongPens and Loot

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If not for the TPL (Toronto Public Library), there is no monthly Daltoganda. My literary output would be greatly diminished. Much of my adolescence was spent trolling the aisles of both the Maria A. Shchuka and Forest Hill library branches along Eglinton Avenue where I reside. I was that guy who y’know skipped out on such enviable teen activities like hanging out at The Eaton Centre or Yorkdale Mall for hours on end hitting on unsuspecting Lisa Bonet-like hotties (hey, the Cosby Show ruled). I preferred to putz-out in public libraries, where I could dig into some fine Young Adult fiction, read magazines and scope out the Lisa Bonet-esque sexpots who hung out there too. I got the best of both worlds.

It was within the confines of these libraries that I learned to dream. I write under many aliases, and I would have to say that Daltpak Chopra, Usain Dalt and the six (and counting) other nom de plume’s I scribe under would be but a mere figment of someone else’s imagination if not for the TPL.

No TPL, less Daltonia.

Now unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in Scugog), you would have noticed that Toronto recently had a library strike that dragged on for weeks, with library workers citing issues around job security among other things. It was like the garbage strike our fair city suffered and survived in 2009 under ex-Mayor Miller, but minus the raccoons and stench, just add paperbacks and DVDs into the mix — they were strewn all over the place beside closed book return slots!

And just a half year before that Lady Longpen went tit-for-tweet with our Mayor’s brother Doug Ford over possible closures to some libraries. Toronto’s system is the second largest in North America and the busiest by circulation. I was pondering all of this when I cashed in my PLR (Public Lending Right) cheque recently. It’s nice to know that all four of my books are enjoying good circulation in the system, and that I can still mess up fragile young minds with my maverick opinions, from a distance, on library bookshelves (heh, heh). It’s even nicer to know that authors registered under this fantastic program do receive compensation for this free public access to their books that appear in branches across the country.

As debates rage around which ‘hoods flaunt more Tim Hortons than TPLs, or around job security for librarians, the Daltpak Chopra in me sees even more daunting challenges that lie ahead. For example, I have a friend of a friend who is all Kindled out, selling thousands of copies of her romance novels electronically. She is collecting some significant cheques. Some of these e-publishing individualists, like her, are making way more dough outside of media sight lines than you might think.

This reminds me of a conversation I recently had with my lawyer, who also happens to be a leading advocate for the rights of writers. While I was at her crib busy cutting a cheque to her for negotiating my current contract, we started chit chatting as we always do about broader publishing biz affairs.

She did admit to getting a steady increase in queries related to e-publishing contracts from authors. You remember what I said about my romance novel writing peer? Let’s face it, if your surname ain’t Atwood and you ain’t LongPenning anything — like, you actually have to show up to your gigs in person — you can kiss those dreams of going on multiple city national book tours goodbye. In 2012 and beyond, it seems to be all about Kobo this, Kindle that.

More importantly, for my homies and homettes who are busy cranking out these self published e-novels and getting paid well for their efforts, will their local neighborhood public libraries carry these titles? The word on the street, when it comes to book reviewers at major periodicals wanting to review these self-pub-styled books is not so good. That may have to change with the times. There was a time when conventional wisdom had it that writers who weren't talented enough simply didn't get book deals. But like the music industry, the tables have shifted. There was a time in the music business where you were considered a flop if you didn’t have any major multi-national company alignment. Now, many folk could care less about what the major record companies are releasing because of this brave new DIY digital world, where the means of production and distribution can be easily accessed through a few mouse clicks.

Many non-Baby Boomer scribes are Mos Def looking to do things differently, seemingly more interested in going digital and getting a larger share of their book earnings. Our fine friends at the TPL are going to have to adjust too, sorting out compatibility issues with Kindle (i.e. the formats used by our library’s ebook services do not support it). While my PLR cheque was spent before it even arrived, their commission has been busy investigating the possibility of making ebooks eligible for PLR dough. After you read my blog, just head on over to their website and download Paul Whitney’s stimulating “EBooks and Public Lending Right In Canada” report.

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. Author of the forthcoming Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press), Higgins has written four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) that examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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