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HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations

March 12, 2011

HarperCollins recently announced that new ebook titles licensed by libraries would only be able to be checked out 26 times before the license would expire. It should be noted that these licenses already only allow an ebook to be checked out by one person at a time. Despite this, HarperCollins still claims to be firmly invested in the “library channel” and what it provides to communities, but that they’re just trying to protect their authors (translation: protect their money). The number 26 was decided on after considering the average lifespan of a print book. These new terms will only apply to new titles, not titles that libraries already own. A 26 checkout limit could actually last about a year and a half if the lending period is three weeks and each patron keeps the book the entire time. However, these new restrictions on an already problematic medium is creating problems for librarians who are already dealing with strained budgets. HarperCollins is the first publisher to institute such a limit for librarians, but Macmillan and Simon & Schuster still do not even let libraries circulate their ebooks. Publishers are also concerned with geographic and territorial rights as they relate to library card issuance and ways to ensure that enough copies of their ebooks are being licensed to sufficiently service library populations.

From the sound of it, these publishers just don’t know how libraries work and are flailing in their attempts to wring more money out of libraries. As far as their explanation for why 26, that is just nonsense. Why would you base that number on print materials when ebooks are not print? Also, if a print book only lasts 26 check-outs then there’s something wrong. This is just such a transparently greedy move for HarperCollins to make, especially considering that ebooks are not exactly overtaking the market yet. You’d think publishers would want to do more things to encourage usage of this new medium rather than limit it. I’m just confounded by all the work that’s being done to stuff a digital medium into a physical package what with the wear and tear consideration and only allowing one person to check it out at a time. I can tell you one thing, the patrons don’t think that way. I’ve had many patrons approach me in confusion over why an ebook needs to be put on hold. The patrons of MCPL have a mental model of digital things that includes instant access and they are not wrong in this understanding. They’re on the forward path and I have to explain that the publishers have not yet caught up to us.

“HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations” by Josh Hadro in Library Journal

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