SoA urges Government to support increase in rate per loan payments for 2018-19

19 November 2019

The Society of Authors is supporting the British Library Board’s proposed recommendation that the Public Lending Right (PLR) rate per loan for the scheme year 2018-2019 is increased from 8.52 pence to 9.03 pence per loan, ahead of the spending review.

The British Library Board – who are responsible for administering the scheme – make a recommendation each year to the Secretary of State of the rate per loan to be paid from the PLR fund to registered authors, illustrators and other contributors. It is based on the size of the fund available and an estimate by the British Library of the total number of loans of their registered works, obtained from a sample of public libraries in the UK.

The PLR scheme year of 2018 to 2019 applies to the lending of physical books and audiobooks and, for the first time, to the remote lending of ebooks and audiobooks from public libraries.

We support the British Library Board’s recommendation and have made the following additional observations:

  1. Increased income – PLR continues to be an important source of earnings for authors and we would urge the Government to ring-fence and increase the (already meagre) PLR fund in any future spending review, particularly in view of the comments we make below in relation to audiobooks and ebooks. We would point out that taking into account the UK population, our PLR funding is well below that of comparable EU countries and we would urge that this be addressed in the next spending review.
  2. Volunteer libraries – We are sad to note the further decrease in the estimated loans of books registered for PLR, caused, no doubt, by the continuing cuts in library services and the exclusion of some volunteer-run libraries from the scheme. We urge the Government to include volunteer-run libraries within the PLR scheme so that true figures for library lending can be recorded and remunerated.
  3. Library cuts – We urge the Government to fulfil its obligation to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service and to protect and maintain the library service which is under serious threat.
  4. Remote lending of ebooks and audiobooks – We look forward to seeing the first payments to authors in 2020. We do note that no extra funds have been allocated either for payments to authors or for the work of the British Library in implementing the new payments and we urge this to be included in the next spending review.

We will support ongoing plans and efforts from the British Library to modernise the PLR service and put it on a footing that will ensure its continued growth and development.