Harper Collins rouses gang of angry librarians

Librarians are being whipped into a state of frenzy over the news that Harper Collins intends to limit the amount of times that an e-book can be lent.

While the usual limit of librarian ire peaks at a disgruntled ‘shhh’ when TechEye gets caught sheepishly grunting by the “romance” stand, it seems that the publisher has pushed them too far this time – with the announcement by distributor OverDrive that strict limits could be placed on products.

“I care about digital content in libraries,” said Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Assistant Director for the San Rafael Public Library,“And I am about to lose my cool in a big way.”  

“No more patience, no more waiting for advocacy groups to do their work, and certainly no more trusting vendors to negotiate good deals for us with the publishers.”

“I am angry, I am informed, and I am ready to fight,” she added.

A letter circulated by OverDrive said: “Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.”

It was revealed that the publisher in question was in fact HarperCollins, and the number of times the e-books, which are typically downloaded from a library’s website, can be viewed stands at 26.

It is thought that the figure of 26 was arrived at as it’s the average amount of uses printed text would have before it would be binned or sold on, but we’d bet bookworms would beg to differ.

“I cannot over-emphasize that we are in trouble… the lack of legislative leadership and advocacy in the last decade has created a situation where libraries have lost the rights to lending and preserving content that we have had for centuries,” Houghton-Jan said.  

“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).”

There are now calls for a boycott of the firm until it repeals its plans to limit uses of e-books, with a website set up by librarians Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell.

“The boycott will end as soon as HarperCollins agrees not to limit the number of times a library can loan each e-book,” the site states.

HarperCollins released the following statement on the subject:

“HarperCollins is committed to the library channel. We believe this change balances the value libraries get from our titles with the need to protect our authors and ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come.”

The news comes as parts of the publishing industry struggles to come to terms with the distribution of literature in an electronic form, with Random House now the last of the ‘big six’ publishers to take up the controversial agency model for the sale of its e-books.