Vonnegut on Freebies.

vonnegutFebruary 10, 1983
[To the Indiana State Library]

I am in receipt of a letter from your research librarian…, which tells me that your institution is no longer able to buy books. She asks that I give the State of Indiana a copy of my latest novel, Deadeye Dick. I have complied with this request.

Since books are to libraries what asphalt is to highway departments, I assume that Indiana is also asking donations from suppliers of asphalt for her roads. Or has it been decided that asphalt is worth good money, and that books are not?

It may be that whoever told [her] to write that letter supposed that I myself get all the books I want for free. I in fact must pay for them what bookstores pay. So what I have sent you represents an actual outlay of about $7.00, plus postage and the price of a bookbag, plus a fair amount of my time, which may indeed be worthless. Let us forget the time. Are all of Indiana’s suppliers of goods making equivalent sacrifices? Or are they to be more respected than I am for the way they make their livings? Are they more manly, more practical, less decorative?

If you have a cost accountant, he can easily prove to you that [her] letter to me cost far more than one copy of Deadeye Dick. If you reply to this letter, and you discuss its contents with others on State time, the cost to the taxpayers will soon exceed the retail price of my collected works bound in the finest leather.




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11 responses to “Vonnegut on Freebies.

  1. Great letter, right on point.
    That idea that somehow books, even music, ought to be free still persists with some people sadly as if creativity should not be rewarded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure that even the prehistoric cave artists were paid for their work of documenting hunts and battles. And since provender was the coin of the realm back then, it wasn’t just a matter of “will work for food,” as many of us are asked to do, today. The best cave artists very likely charged a mastodon ham (or perhaps the biggest haunch at the cannibal feast 😀 ), and the other people in the tribe were probably glad to pay it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Read and Ponder 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • As an unknown Indie Author, I’m fortunate: so far, two Indiana public libraries have my book on their shelves, and both of them purchased their copies. “The [literary] labourer is worthy of his hire.” Thanks for your visit!


  3. Spot on. Thank you, Kurt Vonnegut. 😀 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Indiana State Library is a little more subtle, these days: it recruits local public libraries to join the state library system, and if they do, their collections become part of the “Evergreen Indiana Open Source Integrated Library System” catalog. One of the two Indiana libraries that bought their copies of my novel is a member of the state library system, so my Irish Firebrands gets to rub shoulders with Vonnegut’s Deadeye Dick. Thank you for your comment!


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