HarperCollins makes changes to library e-book sales and lending

By Anne L. RSS Mon, March 7, 2011

HarperCollins publisher announced a week ago that it was changing its sales restrictions to libraries that loan e-books. Previously, when we libraries purchased HarperCollins e-books, that e-copy could be checked out an unlimited number of times. As of today, that is changing: any HarperCollins e-book that we purchase may be checked out only 26 times before the license expires. Additional copies will have to be purchased before they can be made available for library customers to check out, possibly at a lower price. This change has caused a considerable amount of commotion in the library world because of the potential impact on this popular service, particularly since many libraries are coping with reduced budgets.  Recent HarperCollins bestsellers include Justin Halpern’s Sh*t My Dad Says and Sarah Palin’s America By Heart.

The Free Library “owns” a number of HarperCollins e-books whose circulation numbers exceed 26 times. Other publishers are undoubtedly watching this situation unfold and debating whether or not to limit its e-book sales to libraries. At the Free Library, on a temporary basis, we will not purchase new HarperCollins titles until we have more information on how HarperCollins and our vendor (OverDrive) will implement this change and until we know what the pricing structure will be for additional copies once the 26 number has been reached.   We are also joining discussions with HarperCollins to offer other possible options as we all attempt to figure out this new landscape. If you’d like additional information, this recent New York Times article is a brief summary of both perspectives: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/a-limit-on-lending-e-books/?scp=1&sq=HarperCollins&st=cse

What are your thoughts about e-books and publisher limitations? Join the discussion! 

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I think that is ridiculous. Do they really think a hard cover book is taken out less than 26 times in its lifetime?
Doreen - Philadelphia, Pa
Monday, March 7, 2011

HarperCollins has set the 26 circulation number simply for an additional source of revenue. I have many questions: 1) How much do ebooks cost the library? 2) Is this cost more or less than a physical book? How many checkouts do hardcover books last? 3) How many checkouts do paperback books last? 4) Are there additional fees (recurring or otherwise) outside of the cost of the "purchase" of the ebook that are paid to OverDrive? 5) Will the currently "owned" HarperCollins books suddenly be limited to the 26 circulation number? 6) Will the restriction to the number of simultaneous checkouts be lifted since there is a charge for additional checkouts anyway? I have checked out about 10 ebooks in the past year, but only read a couple for various reasons (not enough time, mistimed checkout because of a long queue, not interested after a few pages, etc.). These reasons echoes the same reasons that I might not read a checked out physical book. It would be a shame that those mostly unread checkouts count against the "rental" fee. The publishers are picking and choosing properties from analog and digital books to benefit themselves (no surprise) and not libraries or their readers (and potential customers): 1) Digital books don't need to be limited to one "check out" at a time. Yet the publishers have set up an artificial system where readers have to wait in a queue to checkout ebooks that are lent out one at a time. 2) There were never post-purchase charges for physical books bought for circulation. Once a library purchased a hardcover book, the publisher could not limit the number of readers or charge extra for popular titles unless the book physically became unusable. Yet now they want to set up a system where they can charge for the number of times a book is "checked out." 3) Physical books on the library shelf can be browsed and read through a few pages before a reader commits to checking out a book. Yet the publisher has not made any form of browsing library ebooks available. If a reader just wants to "see what the book is about" the reader has to do a full checkout, which now would mean essentially an additional fee to the library. Where will this behavior lead us? Well it seems like some libraries/librarians are starting to fight back: http://boycottharpercollins.com/
yischon - Philadelphia
Monday, March 7, 2011

My paragraphs and list formatting seems to have been removed by the website after I posted it. It wasn't intended as a big giant blob of words. Sorry.
yischon - Philadelphia
Monday, March 7, 2011

While I am on the other side of the country, I happened to come across this article via a ereader discussion. I remember my blind grandmother, able to check audiotapes via special machine (still required after 35 years, for some reason), as a free service from National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. I just went to their catalog, and it certainly isn't as large as the groupings of "the big publishers' books available in cassette and CD, not to mention digital formats such as "Playaways", etc.). On her very limited income, with there would have no way for her to get "books," unless read aloud to her -- something that as a relatively young diabetic, would not been very independent.(Note -- I have -no- beef with NLS ever for this generous service -- it was a wonderful thing for my grandmother and no doubt it certainly is now for those who use it!) Now, I am disabled, at 43. I will likely not work again, and while I have media galore (TV uncertain to lump in that category), I delight in the ability to take as many books with me as I can at times. I cannot carry more than one at a time and I know where I may end up sitting for hours. These of course are provided and paid for by the National Services for the Blind (part of the U.S. Library of Congress which all us pay for with our taxes her in the U.S.), but there is no "limit" to number of times these can be checked out. (Hoping this vital service will not be cut due to budgetary restraints!) There is no limit to the number of times an audiobook can be checked out at a local library, or through the NLS system. My local suburban library has a total of, get this, eighteen, yep 18, ebooks to borrow. My local library isn't entirely free either -- while I still live in what is called "the city" (as do my parents), I am officially outside the city limits by 2 miles, and must pay $80 per year to borrow books. I realize, truly, there must be revenue. However, my parents and I pay all the state and federal taxes to keep the library open, including with county levy and property taxes that we voted for, because we think it's important. Finally to the cost pissue: Regardless, and meanwhile, the ebook publishers seem to be making somewhat bizarre random publication prices -- at least to the consumer -- for the ebooks. For example, financial advice is $13 for Hardcover, $12.99 for ebook and $29 for CD. The Social Animal by David Brooks is $14.85, ebook is 13.99, and CD is a staggering $30.37. (Somewhere I recall, way back, "they" said CDs would -reduce- the price of things? Wow...) There are still so many people out there that are fully committed to "having a paper book in my hand. I never want to just touch plastic!" Thank you -- I felt that way too. However, as we're cutting down a football field of rainforest in the Amazon per second for building materials in China, that also disturbs me. Let's be reasonable, publishers. If it's a matter of royalties, figure it out. But won't deter independent authors any more from going independent, more than it did independent artists from doing the same. If it does, take a deep breath.
Valya - NW Washington State
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Having worked in publishing before becoming a library, I can say pricing isn't random. Well, not exactly, in business they call it "What the market will allow." Will we allow it? Then they won't charge it.
lorebrarian - northern CA
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When you buy a license, how many people can e-read at one time?
Monica (aka monnibo) - Vancouver, BC
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I hate to hijack a comment thread, but I posted above and feel that the removal of formatting has made the comments useless. I tried to read Valya's comment above, but it was very difficult because it was also a unformatted blob of words. Is there anything that can be done about this?
yischon - Philadelphia
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monica, I may be wrong - but I believe that licenses typically only allow for an electronic copy of a book to be read one at a time. In theory, it's very similar to checking out a physical book. No other user can download the e-book to read until the previous reader has returned the book or the borrowing time period has expired.
Alyson - Southampton, PA
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Currently, the license is still one copy, one user.
Anne Lee - Philadelphia
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hi, yischon - I'm one of the web developers here, and I apologize that you're frustrated with the way that the comments are formatted. We have been pretty restrictive with allowing HTML tags in blog comments in the past, to avoid some rather clever spamming attempts. But I agree that allowing formatting would make the comments easier to read. We'll take a look at how we can improve this so that comments like your can be formatted, but spam can't. Thank you for your feedback!
Carolyn P. - Philadelphia
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I ask the Free Library to boycott any publisher that does not allow indefinite use of any eBook. I know that many eBooks cost almost as much as their paper counterparts despite costing far less to produce--that's fine that the library buys them. But the library should not pay for books that limit the number of times they can be checked out. A large system like the Free Library making a stand will be very important for library users and general consumers. We can do fine with only paper copies of Harper Collins books until such a time that they realize books should not have expiration dates.
Fritz - South Philly
Friday, March 18, 2011

I see you appear to be adding HarperCollins ebooks to the Free Library's collection again - has HC changed their policy w.r.t. 26 loans? And regarding disclosure of of information about the borrowers of their ebooks??
Andrew - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 10, 2011

The last 6 ebooks I have looked at were rubbish. It seems anyone can just mash 10 articles together and call it a ebook. Utter rubbish
Rob - South Philly
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Well, Rob you are right. Many of the ebooks today are rubbish. But this not mean you will not find quality material if you know where to search. The idea is to read the reviews on any product before buying the eBook. There are so many cool eBook readers today that it's almost impossible to not love ebooks
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