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October 03, 2006

Steal This Auction Idea

In the auction discussion thread, I'm asked a question about the auction by Jo Walton, the author of the entirely excellent Farthing, Tooth and Claw and other stupendous work. She says:

This is such a brilliant idea I want to steal it -- would you be OK with that?

My response: Are you kidding? I would be delighted if other science fiction and fantasy writers also offered up some tasty piece of their work life as an enticement for people to donate to the John M. Ford Book Endowment. I think it's a fine way to make sure his name and legacy live on in a vital and useful way.

I want to be very careful about overstating my relationship either to Mr. Ford or to this endowment -- I know Mike Ford mostly through the quality of his friends and the quality of his writing, both of which are ridiculously high, and my only involvement with the endowment in his name is that I hope to be able to direct a nice chunk of money its way. That said, literacy is important to me, and the ability to help direct money into an endownment that will directly and perpetually buy books seems like the sort of thing I can get behind, and something I hope other writers could get behind as well.

So, other science fiction/fantasy writers: Yes, please, steal this idea. Offer up something others that your fans would kill to get, and make them pay for it, and then give all the money to the John M. Ford Book Endowment, and encourage your fans to pitch in a few bucks to the endowment even if they don't win the auction. Because libraries rock, literacy beats the alternative, and the science fiction and fantasy community could use an excellent philanthropical hobby.

(Practical note: I do suggest using a legitimate auctioning site, however, like eBay, which is probably something I should have done if I had given this thing due thought before posting it. I've taken on a lot of administrative headaches to assure a legit auction -- eBay would handle most of that for you. What can I say, enthusiasm got the better of me.)

If authors do decide to create auctions to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment, I'll be happy to link to them here. Just drop me an e-mail with a link to let me know. Maybe that will help. It would be nice, in any event.

Update: On that note, Jo Walton has her enticements to donate up on her LiveJournal. Depending how much you donate, you can get unpublished stories, get yourself tuckerized or even (!) get an original poem. And she has books to auction off as well. Excellent.

Posted by john at October 3, 2006 02:00 PM

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Comments

Anonymous | October 3, 2006 07:04 PM

"Because libraries rock, literacy beats the alternative"

Hard to disagree with literacy... but I’ve manage to read and write without setting foot in a library since college (14 years ago), and then only to go through the motion of completing a few research papers. Large libraries are geographically limited. Small local libraries are pathetic. Research is posted to Internet. New books come from Amazon (or airport). More data and books are available online every day. I’d suspect the vast majority of the population does not use the library at all. Not to say libraries don’t have societal value, just no value to me. I can’t be alone in that sentiment. And I wonder if brick-and-mortar libraries will survive the next 20 years.

John Scalzi | October 3, 2006 07:14 PM

Possibly. On the other hand, in the little rural town where I live, the library is immensely important; there are always people in there, borrowing book and DVDs, using the computer connections and having meetings in the community space (the books selection of my little library, incidentally, is not incredibly great in the adult section, but pretty darn good in the kid section).

I do think middle-class/upper-middle class folks have ended up migrating a lot of their book activity to bookstores and coffeeshops and also online. However, this is not to say that libraries are not still being used, and do not fill a role, and won't continue to fill that role in the future.

PixelFish | October 3, 2006 08:28 PM

The only reason I don't use the library as much currently is because I am usually well enough off that I can afford to subsidize my book habit. I was thinking that I really should get back to checking books out--it's easier on my pocket book, and I don't end up filling my already crowded shelves with books I am only so-so about.

Then too, reference books tend to be pretty expensive, and worth checking out. Yeah, the internet is great--but it's also time consuming to sift through, not hewing to the Dewey Decimal system, and many of the sources aren't cited. Even with my friends Google and Wikipedia handy, I prefer to use the internet as a jumping off place for my research, the early mapping of what sort of books and info I'm looking for.

I personally think the brick and mortar library will last as long as books do. (And until anybody can offer me a format I can read in the tub without fear of screwing up an expensive electronic device, books are gonna remain part of my own library.)

As for the contention that libraries are limited in their collections or location, true, but a lot of city or county library systems enable borrowing among libraries and branches, thus extending their utility greatly.

Jo Walton | October 4, 2006 09:16 AM

The people who really need libraries are teenage book lovers from families who don't read.

Even if nobody else ever used them -- and I have used them all my life -- it would be worth supporting them just for the sake of those teenagers.

Janiece | October 4, 2006 09:53 AM

Jo,

Amen! I'm from a family of readers, and both my kids read, but my daughter still uses the library extensively. Spending a week's worth of allowance on a book she'll finish in a couple hours is a pretty big investment for a kid who isn't old enough to work. The library allows her to read as much as she wants.

bonnie-ann black | October 4, 2006 11:40 AM

the library was my second home as a kid. i grew up in a large family and my mom was a voracious reader -- the library was important. i spent more time in the library than at classes in college (managed to read my way through most of the mysteries on the shelves). then, after i started working, i started buying books until one day (when scrounging around for money to pay the con ed bill) i realized i was spending over $30 a week on books. and that was when paperbacks cost $4.99. i went back to the library and now i only buy books i really want to keep, and make sure i donate to my library fund regularly. i always say, if i ever got "real money" i'd make sure the library benefited. of course, my local library is a branch of the New York Public Library which has the *most* amazing online resources and will deliver a copy of any book you ask for (and if they don't have it -- a very rare occurrence -- will get it from some other library system) to any branch you ask it to. i'm spoiled.

Zachary Gole | October 4, 2006 11:57 AM

Research is posted to Internet. New books come from Amazon (or airport).

Um...that's assuming you have the money to buy every book you're interested in. Which not everyone does. If I bought as many books as I checked out from the library in the course of a year, I'd be...well, broker than I already am.

As for research being posted to the Internet...uh, there are plenty of other reasons to go to the library besides looking up academic papers. (And if you weren't referring to academic papers, then I'm not sure what you meant by "research", since most books are not posted to the Internet.)

If there comes a day when all books are freely accessible on the Internet, maybe brick-and-mortar libraries will die out. But unless someone can figure out how authors are supposed to make any money in that scenario, it's not likely to happen. Certainly not in the next 20 years.

Vardibidian | October 4, 2006 11:59 AM

As the book-crazy father of a book-crazy kid, let me say that it isn't just teenagers who have non-reading parents that rely on libraries. There is no way that I could afford to purchase enough to keep the little one happy. Yes, she owns three hundred or so books. Yes, she reads half-a-dozen library books a week. Books for five-year-olds are short. They're not always cheap, but they're short.

By the way, I was at the library this morning, and they still had OMW on the New Books Shelf.

Thanks,
-V.

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