In February HarperCollins announced that its ebooks could only be checked out by library patrons 26 times per title, after which a library would need to re-purchase an ebook in order to continue lending it out. A ruckus ensued: Library Journal reports that in response, some libraries have said they will stop purchasing all new HarperCollins ebooks, period. To add some bigger-picture perspective, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have yet to offer libraries their books in the ebook format at all, and other publishers are continuing the longstanding policy of allowing libraries to purchase ebooks in perpetuity.
Publishers don’t want to see revenue disappear because people can simply get ebooks free through libraries, without ever leaving home. And authors, of course, stand to lose out in a world where there are fewer sales and lower royalty payments. In a broader sense, libraries are concerned about the effect of ebooks on their mission.
All this will likely take a good deal of wrangling. As lovers of books, libraries, and a fair shake for authors, one thing we can all do is support our community libraries and local bookstores.
We’d love to know what you think about this controversy, and welcome all creative suggestions.