Librarians across the U.S. are urging a boycott of HarperCollins after the publishing giant announced it would ask public libraries to repurchase e-books after they've been checked out 26 times. The publisher said libraries typically replace physical books after that many checkouts, so it made sense to ask the same of e-books. Defenders of libraries say this demand is "ridiculous." Until a deal can be reached, HarperCollins will not allow its e-books, by authors such as Sarah Palin and Michael Crichton, to be checked out more than 26 times. Which side should blink?
Haven't libraries conceded enough? "A 26-loan limit doesn't make any sense," says Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic. Many libraries are "still circulating century-old books." But more importantly, librarians have already made several concessions to publishers. Most libraries are prohibited from "lending out more than one digital copy of a book at a time, and often only for two weeks." This latest demand goes too far.
"Boycott HarperCollins: Publisher limits library e-book lending"
Libraries must move with the times: If we allowed e-book readers to borrow HarperCollins titles in perpetuity, says HarperCollins sales president Josh Marwell at LibraryLoveFest, the "emerging e-book eco-system" would be damaged, and bookstores and authors would respectively see a "decrease in book sales and royalties." Twenty-six loans offers a "year of availability" for popular titles, and much longer for others. And it's still cheaper than buying and replacing physical books.
"Open letter to librarians"
Publishers and libraries want the same thing — readers: This is the latest blow in publishers' "long term losing battle" to make digital content as profitable as print, says John Dupuis at ScienceBlogs. But imposing an "artificial scarcity" on books will result in fewer readers and fewer sales. Publishers ought to see libraries as "partners rather than adversaries," and work together to find a model that benefits them both.
"Towards a library e-book business model that makes sense"
HarperCollins isn't as bad as other publishers: "It could be worse," says Barbara Krasnoff at Computerworld. At least HarperCollins actually sells e-books to libraries. Neither Simon & Schuster nor Macmillan do the same. The publishing world seems intent on shooting itself in the foot as it grapples with new technology. Let's not let libraries get "caught in the crossfire."
"HarperCollins wants libraries to pay — and pay — for e-books"