Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back

Yesterday I received an email from OverDrive with an attachment titled “OverDrive Partner Library Update from Steve Potash”, I glanced at it and filed it away in my to-read pile for a later date (which honestly means I may never have gotten to it). This morning Heather Braum brought it to my attention via this post by Joe Atzberger.

The contents of this document are spun in a positive way and there are some great things coming from OverDrive, but in between the good news is some bad news, some really bad news.

The first bit – ownership of ebooks will now expire after a certain number of check outs to patrons. Libraries may no longer own them forever and ever.  This is unbelievable! And a HUGE step backwards in lending rights and library access.

The past several months have brought about dramatic changes for the print and eBook publishing and retail industries. Digital book sales are now a significant percentage of all publisher and author revenue. As a result several trade publishers are re-evaluating eBook licensing terms for library lending services. Publishers are expressing concern and debating their digital future where a single eBook license to a library may never expire, never wear out, and never need replacement.

OverDrive is advocating on behalf of your readers to have access to the widest catalog of the best copyrighted, premium materials, and lending options. To provide you with the best options, we have been required to accept and accommodate new terms for eBook lending as established by certain publishers. Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. 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. This eBook lending condition will be required of all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher’s titles for library lending (not just OverDrive).

The second bit of bad news – publishers want to meddle in your library card policies.

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

OverDrive Partner Library Update from Steve Potash (pdf)

Update 1:05pm EST: HarperCollins is the publisher that forced this issue. From Library Journal HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations

Update 3:45pm EST: If you wanna follow the outrage on Twitter the hashtag is #hcod

Update 3.1.2011 2:20 pm est A message from OverDrive on HarperCollins’ new eBook licensing terms – OverDrive publicly responds to the uproar.

Update 3.2.2011 5:45am esOpen Letter to Librarians a message from HarperCollins

Update 3.1.2011 6:00am EST I am no longer updating this page with links. I am still bookmarking all posts on delicious. You can find new links under the tag hcod, you can find new links related to the boycott under the tag hcodboycott.

From Outside Libraryland

From Librarians:

172 thoughts on “Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back

  1. Maybe I missed something…
    If I borrow a library book – ebook or otherwise, WHY should I expect to ‘own’ it forever and ever?
    Libraries are for LENDING books, not a means to forgo paying for a book and getting to keep it. An ebook which I’ve checked out SHOULD have a due date and after that date should NOT allow me to continue reading it unless I check it out again.
    Again, maybe I didn’t quite follow you on the ‘first bit of bad news.’


    1. you are missing something. That “own it forever bit” has nothing to do with patrons keeping the book, but rather the library owning the item. It is setting a limit on the number of times libraries can lend an item, it has nothing to do with how long a patron keeps it.


    2. It’s not referring to the library patron, but rather the library. The library can check a certain book out to their patrons a certain amount of time, and then the ebook file will be locked against further checkouts until the library purchases a new license for that book. It’s to replicate the problem with print that after a while books will no longer be usable through wear, loss, theft, etc. and the library must purchase a new copy. The publishers are afraid that this repurchasing revenue stream is going to dry up so are wildly flailing to preserve their inefficient business model. Chalk it up to another effort by publishers to hinder the shift to ebooks as much as possible.


      1. You lost me at “wildly flailing.” The “repurchasing revenue stream” is insignificant—no publisher I know of keeps track of such figures and no publisher depends on it for its survival. HarperCollins’ idea is probably not a great one, but very few copies circulate as many as 26 times and this isn’t a policy that’s going to hurt libraries. Why beat up on publishers? Their margins are already horrible: they’re not profiteering like big pharma or Wall Street. And if digital media drives publishers out of business as it did the music business, who benefits?


        1. Your incorrect that few books “circulate as many as 26 times.” At my library I have over 61,000 books that have circulated more than 26 times. Some paperbacks have circulated as many as 43 before needing repair.


    3. The point of this is to create an artificial end of life for digital content that would in print format eventually expire due to use, abuse, loss or theft. The natural attrition of library content creates a built-in source of additional revenue for content sellers when libraries have to purchase a new copy of popular content.

      When digital editions are available that are indestructible and cannot be lost or stolen, those are titles the library will never have to replace, so the publisher feels they are losing that “re-buy” business, so they are defining new rules for digital content that will stop libraries from enjoying the benefits of this new kind of content.

      This is not unlike the notion of your car vendor repossessing your car once you hit a certain mileage. It’s more akin to racketeering than legitimate business and turns every “purchase” of eBooks into a conditional lease.

      The biggest problems with this approach are:
      1. Without knowing what the rate of circulation will be, libraries will not be able to accurately predict either when content will expire, or how much money will be used month per month to repurchase content that the library owned yesterday but lost access to today.
      2. Libraries are being squeezed for more money on content they should own outright and without limits. Also included in the cost of this will be the time spent sifting through the lists of recently expired content to determine what should be repurchased and what should not.
      3. The money saved on not having to replace content would in many cases have been spend by the library on NEW content with the very same publishers. This is assuming that developing and offering compelling new content is still something publishers have an interest in. If they become sufficiently proficient at shaking down libraries, they may just abandon new books for “content protection racket money”. All these publishers are doing now is advertising their limitless rapaciousness.
      4. What patrons want their library’s collection to fluctuate constantly? Do you want to know that if you don’t get your hands on the latest best seller today that it will be all used up tomorrow?

      The DoJ should be looking into these practices.


    1. This is what happened with the music publishing industry– and while publishers have taken a hit for it, artists are still making music. Only now, they have greater control over what happens to the content they create.


  2. You’re right. This takes us several huge steps back. What power do publishers really have? Ultimately, they’re killing themselves with these ridiculous restrictions. Barring government legislative support, the Internet of free and open sharing will eventually overrun publishers. These companies know how unnecessary and irrelevant they are, and they’re trying, desperately, to fight for their moneymaking lives.

    Publishers generally print formulaic books, by brand name authors, who apparently print things even after they die. Why do we advocate this wholesale dumbing-down and lack of diversity in our culture via our purchases? It’s important for libraries, book stores, authors, and readers to bypass the publishing industry altogether. They are simply intermediaries, unnecessary in the Age of Information. One person can distribute and market a book to millions of people, if they know how to use the Internet.

    Libraries are about equal and open access to information. It’s time to move from the old model of buying from archaic intermediaries and to, rather, purchase works directly from authors. The publishing industry works to make itself rich. Meanwhile, most authors struggle their whole life to make money, just to see their original imaginative creation mutated into something “commercial” or simply not read…or to see an author of limited talent, with “hot” content, get rich.

    I could go on about this for a while, so I’ll cut myself off here. Let’s support authors, not publishers who try to take away the wonderfully powerful distributive and informative aspects of the Internet.


  3. It seems like publishers are missing the days when libraries would buy physical books and then re-order more copies when those first ones wore out or were lost/stolen/etc. With eBooks, under the old agreement, libraries would never have to re-order. They owned the digital copy and could lend it forever without it wearing out. Now with the new agreement, libraries are forced to pretend that eBooks are just like physical books and one day, whoosh, they’re gone and have to be re-ordered. It all seems rather sneaky and unfair.


    1. Your spot on. They want to forgo the cost of printing the book, but reap the benefit of “wear and tear.” The cost to my library is retail for a print copy, no digital discount. Not even the standard discount from my book vendor or Amazon. I’m choosing to pay more so that I won’t have to buy a replacement copy.


  4. I think libraries should be able to buy an unlimited license, it should just cost more than on that is. Someone has to pay for good content to continue being published and yes, because publishing is a business in most cases, there needs to be profits. As long as the value is there, that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. There are some business models out of whack or behind the times and that includes those of libraries…


    1. Libraries already tend to pay more for a given ebook or audiobook title than what an individual can purchase directly through an online ebook/audiobook retailer.


    2. I agree for the most part. The problem with paying more for an unlimited use license is that we may not want to keep the item forever, so why pay more for it? I hope libraries don’t feel like they won’t need to “weed” their digital collections just because they don’t take up any physical space. I would rather pay the lowest price for a digital item with a capped number of checkouts and then assess whether or not I want to repurchase the item when the cap is reached.


  5. Isn’t this a little like cutting your nose to spite your face? I’m sure libraries have more than one physical copy of a book depending on its popularity, so why shouldn’t publishers sell more than one licence for an e-book? That way, more than one patron of a particular library would be able to read the book at one time.

    Again, this worry about a licence wearing out after a certain number of checkouts is bunkum, to put it very rudely. If the publishers were providing enhanced ebook versions of their titles, or apps, and were adding new functions and features every year, I could understand the need to renew licences, but not if the ebook offered is a text-only version.


    1. Physical books don’t normally wear out and need to be replaced after only twenty-six loans. And when they do start to wear out, they can, up to a point, be repaired to extend their life. What’s bunkum is the pretense that this 26-loan limit is either conceptually or economically reasonable for libraries.


  6. While I certainly read the letter with interest when we received it at my library, and I definitely groaned when I came to the portion about the maximum checkout limit, I’m not going to get too upset just yet. Though I don’t like the restriction, I certainly do “get it” from the publisher’s perspective. When we buy a print item, we know it will physically deteriorate, get lost, get damaged, etc., which will require a replacement copy if we want to keep it in our collection. Yes, we technically do “own it forever,” but we all know that is not how it really works in practice. I can understand publishers wanting to have a way to capture this “replacement” revenue in a digital model, and I would much rather see it happen this way than by dramatically increasing the cost of each title. I am, however, very curious to know what the maximum checkout number is going to be. If it is very low, that would definitely be cause for concern.

    As for the second bit of news, I don’t see the problem at all. It is completely consistent with what database vendors have been doing for many years. Again, I’ll wait to see what the restrictions actually are before I declare them a major step back. If they are unusually restrictive, then we may have cause for concern.


    1. I don’t read the second bit that way, here’s why it concerns me. Yes we limit access to databases and ebooks to people who have a library card. But many libraries allow patrons outside of their service area to purchase a card. that card then allows them the same privileges as any other card holder including access to electronic services. My fear (and given this fiasco its not unfounded) is that publishers my try to restrict the access of those purchased cards. That is a problem. It puts them in a position of dictating policy to libraries.


  7. The first bit is disconcerning to say the least. Yes the physical copy could wear out but we also re-bind things to keep them and do other things to maintain the item.
    The second bit, ok. I get that for the patrons at the library but what about ILL? I had thought some e-vendors allowed ILL of materials. Not so? Or does this affect the possible ILL of the item too?


  8. Libraries pay a lot for an ebook — no discounts like we have with p-books. Kick in the 40% discount and perhaps we can purchase multiple licenses. Also, this is only SOME publishers doing this, but if they get what they want, others will follow suit. So, let’s BOYCOTT purchasing titles from those publishers who want to unreasonably restrict. If every library in Overdrive (13,000?) stopped purchasing titles from those publishers, whammo!! Anyone know who these publishers are?


    1. Just announced today–HarperCollins is capping library ebook circs to 26 times or about 1.5 years based on 3-week loan period circs.


      1. In our state consortia, the default checkout period in some cases can be 7 days. You can reset this, but if that ebook has 26 holds on it when the ebook is released, and each time it’s checked out, it’s out for 7 days, that’s 6 months for the life of the material. And, what about cataloging and data tracking? How are you going to easily know when a material has hit it’s 26 checkout period? And then get it out of your local catalog, if ebooks are there? This has many serious implications, we’re only starting to scratch the surface of.


  9. Would be nice if they offered the reverse – if the library has purchased e-books that patrons don’t want to borrow, they could cull it from their shelves and sell it back to the publisher. Is that even an option right now?


  10. Perhaps we should boycott the first publishers that participate in the limited checkouts scheme….all their formats …


  11. Wow. This could make things really complicated, and especially after Overdrive and the ebooks in libraries had a bump over this past holiday season. Unfortunate. I do agree with Diana that it is well past due that there be a new model for communication between writers, publishers and libraries. But what does that look like? How does it function? And most importantly, how do we reconcile the fact that Authors and Publishers need to make money and libraries are Non-Profits?


    1. I was waiting for someone to think of this one. With what happened with and their Kindle, I’d think the idea of limiting the length of ownership of a book would occur to some publisher…about….now.


      1. Yes, they’ll “sell” it to you with the proviso that it will expire in 5 (or whatever) years. Then you’ll have to repurchase if you want it again. No, thanks. I’ll just buy a paper copy…if they still exist.


  12. Hmmm. Are they going to start extending this from ebooks to also include “traditional” and downloadable audiobooks and regular “book” books? Yes, these items may wear out and need replacement but I’m sure the publisher could institute some sort of pro-rated/sliding scale at which libraries would be forced to RE-purchase the same item . For example, if my library has owned Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code and it’s been checked out 50 times over its lifetime, the publisher can always arbitrarily decide that once it’s has been checked out (akin to downloaded) 10 times, I have to purchase it again or face legal repercussions. Granted, the physical objects we circulate can’t be made to self-destruct (well, they could, but that’s a whole other thread) but publishers could hold our legal feet to the fire. This is just ridiculous. Their reasoning is flawed, at best. I wonder just how many copies of ebooks libraries purchase annually? Libraries constitute one of the biggest revenue sources for all publishers. I realize they’re trying to protect their investment but come on. Where do you draw the line?


    1. You and I don’t draw the line. They’ve already drawn it. We’re the losers. Now that everyone’s dependent on new technology (which isn’t necessarily better than the old), they’ve changed the rules.


  13. I understand what the publishers may be thinking here, but I also think they are missing out on the possibility that a larger market is opening up to them. Because people will not have to come to the library to get their materials, there maybe more downloading going on. If there are numerous holds on a title, libraries will end up purchasing additional copies to take care of those holds even if it is digital content.

    What bothers me more is the possibility of geographic restrictions on users. A huge number of my library’s users are military personnel. The soldier may have a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan, but he/she is still a resident of our city and his/her property taxes help support our library. Our library cards remain in force for 3 years, so he/she is still a patron in good standing. Why shouldn’t this soldier be able to use our download service while stationed elsewhere as long as it is not a permanent duty station? And what about the business traveler who spends a great deal of time on the road? Should that person really be penalized just because they aren’t nearby whenever downloading?

    I would rather pay double the price to have the item permanently than to have restrictions on the number of checkouts. As for dealing with the geographic issue, that may be trickier since there is a great deal of potential out there for abuse by people who give out their patron information to friends and family. It will not be an easy problem to solve.


    1. You’re right. And what of my patrons who travel a great deal for business? While I was snowed in at LaGuardia after Christmas I was grateful to be able to download a library book to read. If I had to wait until I returned home I would have been a grumpy patron.


    2. Unless I’m really, really off base, the “geographic restrictions” being referred to are going to be just like the ones already in place by virtually every major database vendor and would have no impact whatsoever on military personnel or business travelers that are entitled to cards at your library. It would merely restrict people who live far from your library and pay no taxes to it from purchasing non-resident cards to access digital content even though they aren’t really your residents. This is not unusual at all. The library I’m currently at does not allow reciprocal cardholders to access databases remotely. My previous library allowed some non-residents who had purchased cards to access databases, but only if they lived within a certain radius of the library. In each case, this was to conform to our vendors terms of service. It had nothing to do with where you were physically accessing the material from.

      Again, they may have something completely different in mind, but I doubt it.


      1. I don’t know about your state, but in Massachusetts, local libraries get some state funding, and every resident of the state can legally get a card at any public library in the state.


    3. “What bothers me more is the possibility of geographic restrictions on users. A huge number of my library’s users are military personnel.”

      I believe that military personnel, families and retirees can get global service via their military libraries. They don’t need their local public library.


      1. Actually Barbara that isn’t accurate. Most military personnel rely heavily on their local library for books, programs and other services not offered at military libraries.


  14. The idea of limiting digital copies to a set amount of checkouts seems logical, in terms of weeding length and outdated books. But, as an independent publisher, I’d think unlimited checkouts for 2-3 years and then cap it after that length of time.. but the big boys (like HarperCollins) are just nuts with 26 times. Gives us indy publishers a bad rap, even though we don’t like how ‘they’ are trying to dictate what ‘should’ be for everyone.

    As an author and publisher, I even lower my prices below the big boys’ absurdly-hyped selling point for similar items, just because the material is for certain genres or niches. Maybe it’s time for libraries to take this opportunity and realize that there a lot of good self or independently published books that could easily fill these gaps. Hell, sometimes the cost is just for marketing a sub-standard book from a burned-out writer anyway!

    As DF pointed out above, the geo restrictions are the bigger concern for the big boys. That’s shooting themselves in the foot. Luckily I dictate my worldwide rights.. so traveling or military patrons can read away!


    1. Print books don’t “wear out” after two or three years, and up to a point can be repaired if they do. And you, as well as HarperCollins, are overlooking the marketing benefit of people being able to find your book long after it ceases to be the Hot New Thing, and decide that they want to buy either a copy of that book, or other books by the same author.

      Also, sorry, no, libraries don’t get a price break on ebooks; libraries don’t even get the same break on ebooks that they do on print books. Libraries pay full cover price of the print book for most ebooks. And for that premium price, HarperCollins wants to require that libraries get very limited and short-term use, AND give up their patron data to a third party.

      This isn’t reasonable; it’s insane.


      1. As I’ve said in other comments, and I don’t mean to divert this discussion, but, why are we imposing these made-up limitations on books, that are un-enforceable?

        I can tell you from experience, that bypassing the protection mechanisms in ebook readers is trivially easy, even for a regular user.

        Essentially, “lending” ebooks is like having the library make a copy of a book, sending the copy to a person, and then requesting that they destroy that copy after two weeks, so you can send another copy to someone else.

        I understand that the publishers want to try to impose the physical limitations of paper books on ebooks, I get that.
        But, isn’t it a bad thing?
        We shouldn’t be spurning technology to appease publishers desire for money.

        Imagine if you had just gotten a printing press, but, instead of using it to its full capacity, you limited its use so that it was on par with the team of monks you had scribing books.

        These DRM schemes are absurd and only taken seriously by the publishers and perhaps the librarians.
        It’s intuitive, especially to people of my generation, that an ebook is just a copy of a file.

        The fact is, a pirate who shares hundreds of ebooks with everyone on the internet is doing a far better job than you, in terms of giving people access to books.

        Most of what you’re concerning yourself with now is imposing artificial restrictions on books, and placing strong restrictions on who can access books.
        When you decided to become a librarian, is that what you thought you’d be doing?



  15. I’m sorry, but before we can even talk about this, let’s talk about the issue of libraries “lending” ebooks to people.
    This is so absurd it’s insulting.

    Let’s be clear here, as I understand this technology:

    Someone “checks out” an ebook (they download a file)
    Library server pretends that the file is a finite physical object and has been given to someone (it hasn’t), and the server denies access to anyone else attempting to download the ebook file, thus emulating the disadvantages of a physical book.
    Then, when the user “returns” the ebook, is where it gets even sillier.
    So, does the borrower get a late fee if they don’t delete the file?
    Does the library not have access to the ebook if the user doesn’t delete it on their own home computer?

    Am I missing something here?
    Has the world gone insane?

    Just take the pdfs, and throw them on an ftp server — what’s the big deal?
    Is that not the most efficient way to distribute information?
    Maybe they can make a torrent instead?
    I’d be happy to do it for them if they don’t know how.

    It really is pathetic that you’re taking bits — an infinite medium, and *pretending* that it’s finite.
    Maybe in a completely closed ecosystem, with no competition, that might be acceptable.
    But anyone who thinks this will work is hopelessly out of touch.

    Why on Earth would you impose the limitations of physical books, on ebooks?

    Do you advertise this as a feature?
    Is this supposed to make people want it?

    No, I get it, publishers twisting your arm.

    Besides the fact that this relies on a collective voluntary delusion, the technical enforcement end of it doesn’t even work!
    You’d be better off having DRM on the honor system — please delete this ebook two weeks after downloading it, and open up your firewall and give us full access to your computer — on the honor system, we can’t force you to do it.

    I suspect that many of you are a bit too involved in your own world to understand how absolutely kafkaesque this is, and where it can go.

    It’s really too bad too, I LOVE libraries, and it breaks my heart to see them galloping towered irrelevance with stuff like this.

    There’s a huge need for public access to information, why not become hubs for high quality internet access and activities relating to that?
    Or, that was just off the top of my head, but libraries can actually find a real niche in the future, instead of this nonsense.


    1. You are missing the information that once a library books is returned, the file the borrower has downloaded is locked and can NOT be opened.


      1. Hi Linda, thanks for your reply!

        What I would say is, that you’re incorrect, the file is NOT “locked”, and all of the schemes used to enforce licenses for ebooks, have, as of now, been compromised, and even a moderately skilled computer user can bypass these mechanisms, my classmates do it all the time.

        So, I don’t understand why we would make each user wait two weeks or more to download the file, when there’s no technical reason for them not to.
        Is it not the job of libraries to distribute information for the public good?
        Don’t you have a duty to make every effort to do so.

        What you’re doing is in-fact the OPPOSITE of distributing information, you’re expending resources figuring out ways to PREVENT people from accessing books.

        Many people I know make gigabyte upon gigabyte (thousands) of books available for public download, all you can eat.
        In terms of getting books into peoples hands, the pirates have you BEAT.

        And now you’re talking about making ebook distribution less versatile than physical book distribution?
        How can I not think this is absurd?


        1. I guess the disconnect is that, I, as a library patron, do not have a clue how to unlock a library book. While it may be intuitive to your generation, it is not to mine.

          If it is as easy to break the encryption as you say, than you have raised a very valid point that needs to be addressed. I do not know what the right answer is, but I fear libraries will stop lending books if we continue along this path.


          1. Well, I do think the disconnect between different groups of people, and how we use libraries, is interesting.
            I’d like to give you some insight into how *I* use libraries.
            On my flight a few days ago, I checked out a few DVDs, and ripped them to the hard drive of my laptop, so I can watch them on the flight.
            I returned the DVDs a few hours later, having not watched them, because I copied them.

            I can now send these rips to whoever wants them, I can effortlessly make a million copies.

            Although, I’m probably just going to delete the files after I watch them.

            The first thing anyone does when getting a compact disc, is to rip it to ones hard drive.
            Then, it can be copies to your ipod, or wherever you want.

            This is a big difference in about how people consume media.

            The physical media is almost disposable, it’s the bits that matter.

            SO, I’m sure you could imagine how this wouldn’t exactly play well.

            I would argue that lending of digital media is effectively dead on arrival.

            I think people are going to see how needlessly obtuse “lending” of ebooks is, and get really insulted.
            Nobody is going to appreciate the nuances of your agreements with the publishing companies — they’re just going to think you’re taking them for a ride.

            What you *could* do, is make it clear that you have a finite number of licenses available, and emphasize that: Sorry, all licenses for checkout exhausted, please attempt to download again later.

            At least it will make it clear that it’s a licensing issue.

            And I really hope libraries don’t ever stop lending paper books.

            I have fond memories of reading Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, it was basically my personal sanctuary.
            And I wouldn’t be the engineer I am today if I didn’t start reading programming books when I was so young.


  16. This is ridiculous. Paper books, especially hardcover, are loaned in excess of 26 times, with many of them in circulation for a decade or more.

    Libraries already pay a higher rate (3x) to purchase ebooks. Along with this change, are they going to lower the cost of the ebook to the prevailing consumer rate? According to this, the library can loan each book approximately 8 times for the consumer cost of each book. That is excessive.

    It is bad enough that we can’t lend books to friends, pretty soon we won’t be able to borrow library books. Libraries are not for profit and cannot afford this cost hike.

    I fear that this overly restrictive rules will encourage the very piracy that they seek to prevent.


    1. @librarianbyday Horrible! Sometimes I check out ebooks and never start them. With this, I’d actually prevent someone from reading it.


  17. Bobbi,

    Thank you so much for putting this all together! What a great resource you have assembled in a very short time! It makes it so much easier for those of us who were not able to keep up with thhe convo yesterday to catch up! This is awesome.


  18. This is just my opinion but I believe that a boycott is a mistake. From the publisher’s perspective, if we stop buying their books, people will have no choice but to buy books which is exactly what they want.


    1. So, on March 7 libraries should just keep buying? How about “due to budget constraints, HarperCollins ebook purchases are no longer a high priority at our library. If there is money left, maybe we will consider purchase. We cannot afford to purchase at full price an ebook that will disappear after 26 check outs.” If boycott is too strong a word perhaps you can tone it down by calling it a “No Buy Zone” and delay your purchase indefinitely. I think a “business as usual” approach is a mistake.


      1. Again, in my opinion, NOT buying is a mistake. We need to engage them in another way. We have two fundamentally different goals. Ours is the greater good, theirs is profit. We can be technically right or morally right and it’s irrelevant to a corporation; they are legally obligated to maximise profit. If we can show that free digital content drives sales of paid content, then this issue will disappear and you’ll see the relationship with publishers bloom. Unfortunately right now I think that’s a mixed bag; yes for films, yes for some musical groups, no for digital music in general.


      2. I guess each library or consortia will decide what is good for their library, their collection and their users. And whether or not purchasing ebooks from HC is a good financial decision for their shrinking budgets. It is hard to imagine a library spending lots of money on an ebook that will disappear after 26 circs. We definitely do not want a bunch of hysterical, irrational, angry librarians rampaging in the streets.


    2. Peter – I’m in agreement with you. At this time I do not think that a boycott is the best course of action. I worry it makes us look hysterical and irrational. Not the image you want to take to the negotiation table.

      There may be a point in the future where a boycott becomes necessary to make a statement but that time is not now.


      1. Thanks Bobbi. I sincerely appreciate that. I agree with Barbara that we need leadership from our state/provincial/national associations. If data shows e-books in libraries drive book sales this is a no-brainer but if not, publishers will believe that they benefit from a boycott by libraries – but maybe not from the public. That highlights that longer term libraries need a really clearly defined brand. That will make these big issues that we wrestle with individually so much easier to deal with.


      2. “I worry it makes us look hysterical and irrational. Not the image you want to take to the negotiation table.”

        Interesting choice of words.


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  25. One more resource for the bibliography: The Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books:

    It’s a website and a project that we have been working on for a while now, out of an interest to preserve the right to read in electronic format. We’ll be presenting at ACRL on April 1st, and we plan to cover many of the issues discussed here, as well as how this situation is akin to other movements (F/OSS, etc.).


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  27. I smelled this coming from a mile away. The introduction or large numbers of ebook readers, ipads, iphones and ipodsbeing sold in the market place today was a big sign of things to come. Having printed materials converted to electronic/virtual materials was just a another way for these publishing companies and writers to exploit the readers for thier every dollars and cents. The best way to combat this activity is to have many underground or so-called street writers willing to provide thier content for free to libraries, and their readers, and who are willing to sue writers of this guild for copyright infringement.


    1. The writers don’t decide the terms of sale to libraries or to individuals. Even the biggest bestsellers simply don’t have that much power. Very popular and tech-savvy writers often find themselves unhappy with the limitations imposed on digital sales by the publishers.

      My head is spinning, frankly, at the idea of suing the owner of the copyright for copyright infringement, in any case. On what grounds?

      And if you want to stock your library with the works of “underground or so-called street writers willing to provide their content for free”–good luck with that. You’ll quickly find out what the real service is that publishers provide to readers and to libraries. It’s not distribution. It’s selection and editing. If you’ve never read slush, you have no idea what first readers at publishing houses are saving you the experience of wading through. Not that you won’t find gems, too–you will–but in finding them, we’d have no more time to do the rest of our jobs.

      Refusing to buy ebooks on terms that are just not viable for libraries, as Pioneer is doing, is one thing, and I strongly support it. Having hysterical fits, blaming parties who have little influence and no control over the situation (writers), and threatening lawsuits for copyright infringements because you can’t buy the works you want on terms you like–not so much.


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  31. Seems a bit ridiculous that libraries are limiting the use of eBooks. I can somewhat understand that you shouldn’t just be able to go out and get as many books on your Nook or Kindle as you want from the library and never have to return it (borders on piracy at that point, doesn’t it?) but charging the full price of a book for a digital rental is a bit absurd.


    1. You are confused. It’s not the libraries that want to do this. It’s the PUBLISHER, HarperCollins, that has decided to limit libraries’ rights to the ebooks they “buy,” and force them to re-“buy” the ebook again after 26 loans.

      No one has suggested that libraries charge borrowers the full price of the book or anything close to it for a loan. Some people have suggested $1-$2 per loan, but even that hasn’t been a popular idea.


  32. I agree to an extent that publishers should be able to charge a small fee per e-book checked out. It’s in some way better for our economy than a regular library as long as the books are good. Of course if the books are not good there should be an easy way to rate the book so that the library wont waste money on repurchasing rights to a specific e-book.

    These changes in the publishing industry will change so many things from libraries, to self publishing, to the rise in cost of paper books. It will be very interesting to see how the publishing industry will change in the next decade or two. Hopefully there will be many positive changes as time moves on


    1. Actually you’re wrong about the economy. Studies show that library book borrowing actually increases book sales so there is no need for the fee-per-checkout-model based on your reasoning. Also who decides if a book is “good” libraries are about equal access and opportunity, were responsible for providing all types of material even those we don’t agree with or deem “good”


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