HellZiggy (hellziggy) wrote,

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Libraries, Overdrive, and HarperCollins

This article at theatlantic.com talks about ebooks and their availability through the public library systems. It also talks about publisher HarperCollins' new policy for licensing ebooks to libraries. Going forward, all HarperCollins e-books will expire after the book has been loaned out 26 times, and to make it available for patrons to check out again the library would have to purchase a new license for it.

I understand HarperCollins' reasoning behind doing this. They are looking at the ebooks and seeing something that will never have to be replaced because the cover ripped off, or someone spilled their drink on it, or any of 100s of other ways to ruin a book. They think that they are losing out on huge numbers of sales of their books.

I think that they are going to lose more sales from this than they will gain. Libraries have a set amount of money to spend. They spend as much as they can on books & other media. So a library isn't going to continue to spend the same amount on books and ebooks, and then spend additional money for new licenses on the ebooks that are "used up." No, they will be spending the same amount they were before, but they'll be thinking twice about spending it on HarperCollins titles.

One misconception that people who aren't checking ebooks out of the library have is that the library just needs to buy one copy and since it's "digital" you can then have as many people as you want using it. This just isn't true. If the library wants multiple patrons to be able to read the book at the same time, they still have to purchase multiple copies just like they would for paper & ink books. I normally loathe DRM on anything digital I buy, but I agree with it 100% in this one specific instance. The Adobe EPUB eBook format that Overdrive uses is the key to making the library system work for ebooks. When you check out and download the book, Adobe Digital Editions unlocks that file for you and limits the access to the checkout time you've selected (1, 2 or 3 weeks). You can return it early through ADE when you finish it, or if you don't it will automatically return at the end of the checkout time. At that point, as soon as it is "back" at the library, if someone has a request in for it they are notified that it's available.

HarperCollins somehow came up with the circulation number of 26. They say that is the average number of times a physical book is checked out before it needs to be replaced. Most librarians I've seen commenting on this say that books last longer than that, especially when they are hardcover, which the most popular new books tend to be. HC also says that 26 checkouts will be a full year, based on a two week checkout time, and that it is actually a year & a half for libraries that have 3 week checkouts. I think setting the number at 26 is crap and completely unrealistic. Just this year I have already read 34 books. That puts my average read time for each book at just under 3 days. I have yet to keep any book for the full 3 weeks and have it return on it's own, except for one that Rick was planning to read and never finished. I was ready to return it before even 2 weeks were up.

I have been thrilled with the variety and quantity of ebooks my library has been getting. We've got over 8700 different titles now. And I really hope that they stop buying HarperCollins titles for now. I don't want the money they spend to be wasted on a book that is no good after it's been read 26 times. Not when the same money can buy a book that won't expire. When I am looking for books to check out now, if it is one that's been added to the system since the HC policy changed I'm going to have to check the publisher, and if it's HC consider how much I really want to read it. If it just sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I'll like it, I'll be passing on it. Why should I waste almost 5% of the book's life when there's probably someone else out there who is really interested in it? I should let them have it.

I know I'll miss out on books I would have loved because of this. And HarperCollins? They will lose some sales because of this. While I love getting ebooks from the library, they don't have everything I want. I'm still spending money on ebooks, just a different selection than if I didn't have the library as a source also. So if I skip a HC book from the library, I won't be getting hooked on that author. And if I'm not getting hooked on that author, I'm not going to be purchasing any of their books, now am I?

Ebooks are relatively new. Publishers & libraries are still trying to figure out what system for them works best. Hopefully it won't take HarperCollins too long to figure out that their new plan is crap!
Tags: books, nook

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