HarperCollins has a lot of librarians up in arms over their new policy: ebooks can be leased by libraries, but not purchased outright. After 26 loans, the ebook “expires”, and is no longer available to the library. The library would have to purchase a new lease on the ebook in order to lend it out again.
This is an ugly quandary. Libraries are trying to jump into the ebook fray, trying to provide users what they want and need, trying to do more with less, and trying to stay relevant in a digital age. If publishing houses set restrictions that make it impossible, fiscally and practically, for public libraries to provide ebooks, it may make a profound impact on their ability to serve their respective communities, as the demand for ebooks rises. And the last thing public libraries need, while already forced to beg for funding, is to even appear less relevant.
At the same time, publishing houses have their point of view on the issue. From HarperColllins’ Library Love blog:
“Selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”
It also says, “If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price.”
Librarians are protesting online and with proposed boycotts of HarperCollins products, including print materials. For more information on the story, read here on USATODAY.com.