Authors got an average payment of just under €32 last year for having their books borrowed from public libraries in Ireland.
New figures published by the Local Government Management Agency, which oversees the payment scheme, shows a total of €200,317 was paid out to writers, illustrators and translators in return for the lending rights of their books by libraries in 2020.
The Public Lending Remuneration (PLR) scheme, which is capped at €200,000 per annum, paid a rate of 4.39c per title borrowed in 2020 – up from 4.12c the previous year.
Only 6,271 authors out of almost 28,000 registered with the PLR scheme got a share of last year’s fund, which is provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Payments to individual authors are currently capped at €1,000, with a minimum sum of €2.
In contrast in the UK, authors can get a maximum annual payment of £6,600 – approximately €7,718 at current rates and almost eight times the Irish limit – under the PLR scheme there.
Under EU legislation, all 27 member states are obliged to have a scheme to remunerate authors for the lending out of their works by libraries.
The Irish Writers Union claims the rate of around 4c per borrowing in the Republic is “too low”.
“It is approaching a level where the scheme in Ireland will be considered derisory and therefore in violation of the EU directive,” it said.
It also criticised the lack of advisory input from writers’ organisations into the design and operation of the scheme.
However, it acknowledged that the Irish PLR scheme is a relatively fair system that does not reward best-selling authors too heavily.
Eight writers got the maximum sum of €1,000 last year, while only 33 got in excess of €500.
The most common payout was between €10 and €50.
Funding for the PLR scheme was reduced from €300,000 in 2015, while its annual budget peaked in 2009 at €350,000.
No details are provided on payments to individual authors.