Libraries roar! HarperCollins is limiting e-book check-outs to 26

There’s a storm a-brewin’ between one of the largest book publishers (HarperCollins) and the library world. On February 24, 2011, new e-book licensing terms were released by Overdrive, a library e-book vendor. Overdrive reported that HarperCollins would begin restricting the number of times an e-book could be checked out before its license expired. That number is 26.

For libraries that have a two week lending period, their license for a HarperCollins e-book will last about a year. For libraries with a three week lending period, their license will last about a year and a half. After 26 check-outs, the book that the library paid for will disappear and they’ll be forced to buy a new one.

What are the problems with this new arrangement? Let us count the ways….

  • This is a huge step backward in lending rights and library access
  • Libraries’ budgets are strained enough without this added burden
  • Libraries with a shorter (two week) lending period will be disproportionately affected
  • Publishers such as HarperCollins do not demand that libraries return their *paper* copies after 26 check-outs. This arrangement seems designed to encourage libraries to buy paper books rather than increasingly popular e-books for their patrons
  • This creates a huge new workload for libraries who now have to add an e-book to their catalog, track the number of check-outs, and then remove the e-book from their catalog
  • Imagine the impact on the 27th patron, who sees that a book is available in a library’s catalog, but oops! No, you’re too late, that book no longer exists here (read more
  • Libraries are losing “the rights to lending and preserving content that we have had for centuries.  We have lost the right to buy a piece of content, lend it to as many people as we want consecutively, and then donate or sell that item when it has outlived its usefulness (if, indeed, that ever happens at all)” (source)

The publishing world has been reluctant to fully embrace the world of e-book lending. Libraries and e-book vendors like Overdrive can not allow HarperCollins’ example to set the precedent.

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