HarperCollins (HC) has recently decided that ebooks licensed to libraries will now be subject to a 26 loan cap, meaning that an ebook can be loaned twenty-six times, and then their license expires and the library would have to purchase a new one in order to keep lending the ebook. If a standard lending period is two weeks, that means that after ONE lending year, the ebook license would have to be repurchased -- EVERY lending year.
Apparently, this number was chosen after reviewing "a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies."
"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."(Quoted from LibraryJournal article)
*sigh* Come on guys... really? I love HarperCollins. They publish some of my very favorite authors. They publish amazing and beautiful and memorable books. But I cannot help but find myself disappointed in them for this decision. I cannot see how this would "ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come."
Libraries are already underfunded and hurting. Libraries are already finding it necessary to reduce their staff, hours, branches and stock. They are already finding it hard to operate and continue to serve their communities as they have done for so long. Every few months, there's news of another library that can't stay open on its own, and (thankfully) many communities rally to donate and support them.
My library system does not support ebook lending now, and if instituting a 26-loan cap is the trend to come, I doubt they will be able to do so in the future. Nearly all of the library books I've ever taken out of my library were donated, not purchased. My library has books on their shelves that are decades old -- older than I am in some cases. My library barely has the funds available to purchase print books that are in need of replacement, let alone potentially renew licenses for ebooks that are undamaged and unchanged, but have just been limited by a publisher.
But there should be a reasonable middle ground. This is an industry that needs to work together and support each other. I do not want to see HarperCollins or any other publisher fail, but I do not want to see libraries fail either. A loan cap is not unreasonable, however the extremely low limit they've set is. Books last longer than one year in EVERY format.
How can this possibly be good for libraries that are already struggling? Why not set a loan cap at a realistic figure, taking into account that ebooks DO last longer than print books? Say 300 loans and then renew? That would be a new license every decade or so (depending on lending of course), which is MUCH more reasonable to me. I am afraid that to prevent themselves from having to pay repeatedly on HarperCollins ebooks, libraries will just stop offering them. :(
What do you think of this decision? Let me know in comments!