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Library e-books to become too tatty to lend

As noted in Library e-books to become too tatty to lend (h/t Wendy McElroy), publishers are now insisting that libraries have to pretend that ebooks deteriorate over time like paper books–even though they don’t. Ridiculous. Dinosaurs of the old age fighting the emergence of the new.

Digital copies must not outlast paper one, HarperCollins insists

By Nigel WhitfieldGet more from this author

2nd March 2011 15:21 GMT

Does an e-book wear out? If it’s from publisher HarperCollins and belongs to a library, then the answer is now ‘yes’ – and potentially in as short a time as one year.

New terms introduced by the publishing giant mean that instead of being sold with a perpetual licence, as they are now, e-books sold to libraries will be limited to just 26 loans.

With many libraries having a default lending period of two weeks, that means that a popular book could need replacing after just one year.

Libraries already work with e-books on the basis of one copy, one loan, leading to waiting lists for popular titles, which will mean that those will have the shortest life span before ‘wearing out’.

HarperCollins claimed in the Library Journal that the 26-loan figure reflected the average lifespan of a paper book, after which it is too tatty, torn or stained to offer for lending, forcing the library to buy a new, replacement copy.

If its e-books don’t disintegrate virtually, the publisher said, libraries will not replace them, costing it sales revenue.

Many librarians dispute this claimed lifespan, and some said they can now no longer afford to offer HarperCollins e-books. With many library services facing budget cuts, few will relish the prospect of having to replace e-books on an annual basis.

Perhaps in response to the outraged librarians, HarperCollins US’ President of Sales, Josh Marwell, wrote an open letter claiming that the new system will provide for cheap renewals of expired e-books, and should cost libraries less overall, though without figures, that can’t be verified.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • TokyoTom March 7, 2011, 4:43 am

    What’s your point in cross-posting this, Stephan?

    I see nothing objectionable in principle here to e-book vendors setting terms of use. The only problematic aspect may be the hidden hand of government in copyright law.

    But in a free world without copyright law, would you find anything to object to here?



  • Jeff March 23, 2012, 8:35 pm

    Yeah, sure, no problem setting ridiculous terms of use. And also no problem when people boycott them for those ridiculous terms.

    If the traditional publishing business model is no longer sustainable, so be it. Books will still be written and still be published — it’s much easier to self-publish right now, for example.

    Burn HarperCollins, burn.

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.