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Librarians bite back!

April 7, 2011

HarperCollins is surprised about the intensity of the criticism over the ebook circulation cap that they announced about a month ago. Josh Marwell, president of sales, now says that the cap of 26 is not set in stone. He invites feedback and insists that they are just trying to figure out how best to approach the situation. Marwell says that when they decided on 26, their information told them that most books do not circulate 26 times, but realizes that this number might not work for best sellers. Concerns about “about the overall ecosystem,” of what he doesn’t say, mean that ebook titles will probably never be sold to libraries without some kind of limitations. Eli Neiburger, associate director for IT & production at Ann Arbor District Library, MI, states that a better model would be to provide limited-term multi-user licenses for best sellers on the day of release. He believes that this would promote book sales. Marwell holds firm in his belief that Neiburger’s model would not work. “”Our concern…[is] the potential for legions of buyers becoming borrowers, and that simultaneous use would play into that concern.”

Librarians attending “eBooks: Collections at the Crossroads,” a symposium organized by the Connecticut Library Consortium, were impressed that Marwell had shown up to discuss solutions with them. Mike Shontz, an account executive for OverDrive, who was also in attendance pointed out that discussion was more effective than outright boycott. Neiburger also pointed out the need for libraries to beef up their storage capabilities and digital infrastructure in order to handle ebook demand. He also pointed out the importance in hiring technical support staff instead of relying on the vendor for such concerns.

I have to say, I think a lot of what Marwell is saying to PR talk, especially because he still sticks to his guns on the single-user license front, but it’s nice that he at least went to the symposium. I don’t see this relationship ever being anything other than a strained one because libraries are fair use beasts at heart and publishers just want to make money. Sadly we have to work with them, for now.

HarperCollins Executive Calls Circulation Cap a “Work in Progress” by Michael Kelley in Library Journal

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