Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 March 2011 14:50
On February 24, the Pioneer Library System received a message from our downloadable materials vendor, OverDrive, stating that an unnamed publisher would place the following requirements on their eBook titles, “for every new eBook licensed, the library […] will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.” While the one customer at a time portion has been standard the “total number of permitted checkouts” was a new restriction.
That publisher turned out to be HarperCollins.
Starting March 7, the “total number of permitted checkouts” for any HarperCollins eBook will be 26, after which point, libraries will have to purchase the eBook again. This figure does not account for people renewing an eBook to finish reading it and no accommodations are made for eBooks which never checkout. There is no option for the library to remove the title from their virtual collection; instead it will remain listed and unavailable for customers and library staff to access. The eBook is essentially locked until a re-entrance fee is paid by the library for the next 26 checkouts.U
The rationale offered by the publisher is since paper books wear out and need to be replaced if they are to remain in a library’s collection, the same should be true of their electronic formats. The publisher argues that it should not be denied revenues that come from reselling replacement books and resources. Because the publisher assumes digital resources never deteriorate, they have set an arbitrary limit to the number of times an electronic resource can be accessed. Not planned obsolescence. Forced obsolescence.
We are genuinely concerned about this action taken by HarperCollins, publishers of some of the Virtual Library’s most popular authors such as the Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot, Michael Crichton, Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket.
The argument against the arbitrary number is twofold. First, replacement of books in libraries is based upon the condition of the book, not the number of times it has been checked out. It is not unusual for popular books to be checked out 100 times or more before the wear and tear of circulation takes its toll and the book has to be replaced or repaired. Second, eBooks, too, eventually wear out. The electronic file formats become obsolete in a matter of years as technology progresses and customer interests change. Remember the switch from VHS to DVD or cassette to CD?
Despite statements to the New York Times that HarperCollins hopes this move will, “ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come,” it may, in fact, do just the opposite. Many of our collection development policies require us to look at longevity to insure we are being good stewards of the public monies. HarperCollins has now ensured that their eBooks are forced in to obsolescence and off our virtual shelves and away from consumers with the means to purchase these titles in print or electronically for themselves.
It is our hope that HarperCollins will re-evaluate their decision to put checkout limits on their eBook titles.
Rest assured any eBooks we have currently in the Virtual Library will remain there and still be available for 7, 14 or 21 day checkout with no overdue fees. We will not be removing them. However, we apologize to our readers who enjoy authors published by HarperCollins but until a change is made in the licensing, the Virtual Library cannot, in good conscience spend our limited budget, to repeatedly purchase eBook titles from HarperCollins or any other publisher who enforces checkout limits. Doing so would restrict us from purchasing new titles from authors who work with other publishing houses such as Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, John Grisham and Terry Brooks.
To see a list of authors who publish through HarperCollins visit their website http://www.harpercollins.com/
To see our video of what books with 26 or more checkouts look like visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je90XRRrruM
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