In a move that simply reeks of maximizing profits in an increasingly digital age, publishers Harper Collins have decreed that their eBooks can only be borrowed 26 times before they have to be replaced. Their reason? Because apparently 26 is the magical number that represents that average number of loans before an actual book has to be replaced by the library.
Their official statement on the issue reads:
“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.”
So, real reason? Money.
As a lover of eBooks (though I still believe nothing really comes close to the real thing), I see this move as pure greed on the publisher’s part. 26 also seems like a crazy number, and librarians across the US are in full agreement. In this video, 2 Oklahoma librarians put this to the test, to see exactly what toll 26 checkouts took on a book. Their findings are unsurprising.
It would be better for everyone if publishers would simply admit that they need to find a way to gain repeated revenue on a format that is essentially indestructible. As one of the comments on the YouTube video says, a tiered pricing system could work – through which the library pays a fee for every x times the book is borrowed, depending on its popularity.
If this kind of “rule of 26″ was instituted on real books (i.e. libraries would have to restock the book every 26 times it was lent out), there would be an uproar – and libraries would fade away faster than they already do. Besides which, what would they do with all the ‘spoiled’ books? As a company that prides itself on their ‘innovation’, Harper Collins really seem to be giving the finger to libraries that cater for electronic book users.
Some people are choosing to boycott Harper Collins as a measure to demonstrate their disapproval at this decision. Mike Masnik on technology blog Techdirt has said of the decision: “Yes, seriously. They think they need to protect authors from libraries. That’s – to put it frankly – insane.”
I couldn’t agree more.