On Friday, news broke that, as of March, new HarperCollins ebook titles licensed though library vendors, will have a cap of 26 circulations.
Librarians, concerned about the limits this puts on their ability to serve their communities, immediately began protesting on blogs, listservs and Twitter (#hcod). The protests caught the attention of The New York Times, which published a story last night on the “Media Decoder” blog.
Some librarians are now urging their colleagues to boycott all HarperCollins’ titles, in print and well as eBooks.
Both parties are nervous right now, which makes this discussion particularly heated. Libraries are struggling for their existence, and publishers fear they are, too. The Borders bankruptcy puts a particularly strong light on the shrinking number of bookstores. Further, publishers worry that ebooks will send them the way of the music business.
Two other Big Six publishers have their own ebooks-in-libraries solution; they aren’t making them available at all. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, explained last year that he doesn’t see the current model of licensing ebooks to libraries as good for his business. He later met with a group of librarians at BEA, but that did not seem to change his mind; Macmillan (which includes FSG, St. Martin’s, Holt, among others) still does not make their ebooks available to libraries. One of the concerns Sargent articulated is that an ebook can circulate forever without replacement. The HarperCollins’ circulation cap is one alternative to that objection.
Now is the time to offer other ideas that allow you to serve your users. Creating new models is not easy, but librarians, who have dealt with electronic licensing for decades, are more expert than trade publishers in this area.
On Twitter on Friday (#hcod), HarperCollins tweeted —
We’re reading your posts – and listening to our authors. If you want to share longer thoughts with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take advantage of that; get a real discussion going.