Mar 07 – Mar 13, 2011 Edition Librarians Angered Over Publisher Limits on e-Book Loans

NEW YORK, NY/March 7, 2011–HarperCollins has announced new restrictions on its e-book lending policy for libraries, effective today. Librarians have been outraged by the new policy, which limits libraries to 26 loans per e-book title, roughly a year’s worth of checkouts. When the limit has been reached, libraries must purchase a new license. Until now, library licenses had never expired or needed replacement and covered an unlimited number of checkouts.

As a result of the new plan, librarians have organized Boycott HarperCollins where they can vent their concerns, discuss the issues, and find ways to address the situation.

Publishers are re-evaluating eBook licensing terms for libraries, fearing that the availability of digital books from a library will make it easier to avoid buying books from a retailer, ultimately hurting author royalties.

In an open letter to librarians, Josh Marwell, HarperCollins President of Sales, outlined the company’s reasons for establishing the new policy. “We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”

OverDrive, the library e-book wholesaler which is I the middle of the fray, said it will go forward with HarperCollins’s policy, though the policies are not easy to implement and manage. OverDrive CEO Steve Potash, said in a letter to librarians that publishers are also requiring that the wholesaler and its library clients honor territorial rights for digital book lending and that the libraries insure that patrons who borrow e-books have library cards and are residents within that library’s district.

Potash said they will continue talking to publishers and librarians to engineer and manage the policies for now and in the future. Potash said< ‘We think both sides are not focusing on what it means to buy e-books now, rather than two or three years from now, but I can’t tell publishers and agents what to do. . .”