Lockout! HarperCollins ebooks to be banned from Libraries?

Never Mess with a Librarian

Well, it looks like messing with Librarian’s isn’t the cakewalk HarperCollins expected it to be.

As of March 7, 2011, several library consortia have decided to suspend any future purchases of ebook licenses from HarperCollins as a direct result of the publisher’s recent decision to enact a license limit of 26 check-outs on ebook titles.

In an article by Michael Kelley that can be found at Library Journal (sorry guys, I know I keep cribbing from you, but who else has the best info on Library news?), the response and concerns regarding HarperCollins actions are chronicled.  Predictably, they’re not happy.  From Joan Kuklinski, executive director of the Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing Consortium:

“The library model has always been you purchase and own it for perpetuity, and I don’t think the format should matter as long as rights are being protected,” she told LJ. “No one tells a library they have to pull their books off the shelf after a certain number of circulations so why should this be different? They are looking at consortia as a threat, and it’s totally the wrong approach,” she said.

Directors of the Upper Hudson Library system have also decided to no longer buy their ebook titles from HarperCollins, calling the decision “patently ridiculous” (oh, fun with puns!) while several other consortiums have hopped on the bandwagon (read the article, I can’t crib everything!).

The best argument against such an arbitrary move is Adri Edwards-Johnson (coordinator of the Virtual Library) video demonstrating that print books have a much longer shelf life than HarperCollins is claiming.  Ouch, awkward moment for the publisher.

So, there we have it.  In their efforts to secure an ongoing profit stream from ebook sales to libraries for themselves, and by extension, the authors they’re claiming to represent, HarperCollins has managed to ensure that neither they nor their authors will see a cent until this issue is resolved.  Furthermore, they’ve managed to damage their brand

I doubt we’ve heard the last of this issue, and suspect that some sort of accommodation will eventually be worked out, but for the moment, it looks like HarperCollins is locked out.

HarperCollins Donkey Punches Librarians!

Please be Gentle

A considerate lover is always a good thing, whether in bed or everyday life.  Roses, sweet nothings whispered in a paramour’s ear, generally being attentive, all these things contribute to a great relationship.

So why is HarperCollins playing so rough with librarians?

 In an on-line article earlier this week for Library Journal, Josh Hadro chronicles the recent decision by HarperCollins to restrict the number of circulations of ebook titles by libraries to a strangely arbitrary number of 26.  Yep, libraries can distribute their ebooks 26 times and then they have to pay for a new license.

Why 26 times?

“Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told LJ that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.” (from the article)

Reaaaaallllly?  So what’s next Mr. Marwell?  Will you be sending out notices to librarians across the nation that once a book has been loaned out 26 times, it’s time to rip the cover off, return it, and buy a new copy?

Granted, even with this decision, HarperCollins is still more graceful than a couple of its competitors. 

“While HarperCollins is the first major publisher to amend the terms of loan for its titles, two other members of the publishing “big six”—Macmillan and Simon & Schuster—still do not allow ebooks to be circulated in libraries…”.

Look, it’s understandable that ebook piracy is hitting publishers traditionally small profit margin and that the bread and butter of both publishers and authors is sales and the accompanying residuals.  The rise of ebooks has also cut into these margins, although one would think it has radically reduced publication costs.

(after all, there’s no physical book to print, bind or distribute)

What’s not to be understood (or tolerated) is this ridiculous attempt to squeeze a little more out of a social service itself falling on hard times.

Libraries have never been the go-to service when relegating public funds, so increasing their cost of operating really isn’t a smart idea.  They’re also a great marketing tool, showcasing authors, sponsoring book clubs, generally doing a portion of the marketing department’s work for them.

Furthermore, they’ve also already paid for the product.  It’s their property to do with as they will, isn’t it?

Show a little tenderness HC (and company), be a considerate lover, not a brute!