Local authors get paid for library lending for the first time

National Book Council issues first batch of cheques to local authors benefiting from the Public Lending Rights Scheme

Minister Evarist Bartolo with National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri (at left)
Minister Evarist Bartolo with National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri (at left)

The National Book Council today issued its first payments to local authors, following the launch of the Public Lending Rights Scheme, which enables Maltese writers to be paid based on the amount of times their books have been borrowed from local libraries.

Addressing the press conference, National Book Council Chairman Mark Camilleri jokingly said that the remunerated authors could be divided in two categories, "regular authors... and Trevor Zahra."

Zahra, arguably Malta's most popular and enduring author, topped the list with a total of 5,128 books borrowed over a three-month period, securing him a total of €1,890.44 from the scheme.

He is followed by Charles Casha - of Fra Mudest fame - whose books were taken out 942 times (€347.27) and Clare Azzopardi, whose work encompasses both adult and children's literature, and who secured €340.63 based on 924 borrowed books during the 15 September to 8 December 2014 period.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo also addressed the conference, emphasising that the move aims to recognise the efforts of local writers. Both Camilleri and Bartolo said that while other art forms like theatre and music tend to have a more regular access to funding, local literature feels somewhat lacking in this regard.

"We're lucky to have among us people who have put in the effort to create books - and this goes for both authors and publishers - despite not having any real monetary reward on the horizon. With this small step, we will at least show that authors should be valued in the same way as artists from other fields are," Bartolo said.

Bartolo added that he is also engaging in talks with publishers, to determine how best to help their production and to promote their books.

"We should be proud of our authors on an international level, especially given that some of them are already enjoying recognition beyond our shores. If we've managed to find ways of marketing a can of peas, why can't we find innovative ways of marketing books?" Bartolo said, adding that books are crucial to our cultural identity.

This year, Maltese authors will benefit from €25,000 worth of payments, with the first payment covering lending in the last season of 2014.

Meanwhile the Book Council said that it is "doing its utmost" to put necessary pressure on Maltese libraries to accelerate their cataloguing process, so that all local authors could benefit from the scheme.