It is a legal requirement that we deposit one copy of every book we publish with the British Library. The other five Legal Deposit Libraries may then request copies. This is usually done by the agent for the Legal Deposit Libraries who requests them on behalf of all five libraries. We deposit the one to the British Library as matter of course, within a few days of the book’s release. We wait for the request from the Legal Deposit libraries as they are always at least six months behind in their processing and if we deposit before they ask they have a tendency to lose books.
At the beginning of the pandemic it as impossible to deliver to the British Library and we had several books returned. So we put our practice on hold. They have now requested the books we didn’t send; we have now sent them and so we are up to date. This week I received a receipt for a book we deposited eight months ago.
A visit to one of the Legal Deposit Libraries will shock you. You will see stock-piled books. Will anyone actually ever access those copies?
We’re in queue for being allowed to submit electronically. This will save us money and will save the planet paper and transport costs.
However, there is one thing to consider. Maybe it’s important to still have hard copies even if they are stock-piled in a way that makes it difficult to access them. At least you can always read a hard copy. If we have digital copies only we may run out of the technology to read them. Remember what happened with the BBC Doomsday Project. In one of my own works a far future civilisation cannot access a recording on audio cassette.
And here's funny thing, The British Library chased a book we had already deposited. I sent them proof, they replied that they were behind with their cataloguing. Why chases if it's their own fault?