HarperCollins Wants To Limit Library Ebook Lending To 'Protect' Authors From Libraries

from the can-i-check-out-a-clue? dept

Colin was the first of a bunch of you to send in the news that publisher HarperCollins has bizarrely decided to cripple the ebooks they let libraries lend by adding a clause in their contract that says books can only be lent out 26 times before the license "expires." Why? Because they can, apparently, and don't realize how this will simply piss off people. Also, once again, I do wonder how supporters of a move like this can still claim that a digital copy of content is "just like" a physical copy. HarperCollins could never make such a claim with a physical book.

Where it gets really ridiculous is HarperCollins' "defense" of the move:
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.
Yes, seriously. They think they need to protect authors from libraries. That's -- to put it frankly -- insane. It seriously makes me question whether authors should be comfortable with HarperCollins as a publisher, when it seems to be making moves that clearly go against an author's best interest. The article does note that two of the big publishers -- Macmillan and Simon & Schuster -- don't allow any lending of ebooks, which is unquestionably worse. However, this kind of move doesn't make HarperCollins look good or like it has any recognition of the digital world. It should be a major turn off to authors who do recognize where the market is headed.

Filed Under: ebooks, libraries, protection
Companies: harpercollins


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  1. icon
    vivaelamor (profile), 28 Feb 2011 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Protect authors?

    "I think many serious authors want to make a living."

    More and more authors are making a living while giving away their books.

    "The real issue is how to spread out the development costs over all of the readers."

    If that were the 'real issue' then many successful publications could have stopped selling and released their books for free on the internet a long time ago. You don't set a price by trying to work out how many readers you're going to have, you work it out by trying to determine what people are willing to pay.

    "If you want to have an infinite number of lending events, well, that means that the publishers will only sell a few copies."

    If that were true then the same should apply to physical books and libraries. If people can borrow physical books, well, that means that the publishers will only sell a few copies. Unless you're making the argument that the only thing keeping physical books being sold is the limited number of copies available at libraries. If so then evidence for that shouldn't be too hard to find.

    "You can't have it both ways. You can't reward authors like Malcolm Gladwell for writing a great book and let each copy circulate everywhere."

    Woohoo, I can join the anti-socialist club everyone on TV in America seems to be part of. Forcing people to reward authors isn't really a concept compatible with our capitalist system.

    If no one likes his books enough to reward him out of choice then yes, he may want to sell t-shirts. Of course, he may instead want to do any number of other things that Mike has suggested on this site other than selling t-shirts. The point is that it's up to him to work out what he can do that people are willing to pay for, not for other people to feel socially or legally obliged to reward him.

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