Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagematch with Macmillan to see who can...

Macmillan is famously known for two things among savvy digital readers. First, it led the charge for Agency pricing inserting themselves between the reader and the retailer and dictating to the retailer what prices should be charged for books. Macmillan prices its ebooks at the same level as its print books even though the reader doesn’t get the same rights (lending, sharing, reselling).

Second, Macmillan refuses to allow its digital books to be lent in the library. Apparently Simon & Schuster is the same way and won’t allow its titles to be lent digitally through the library.

Today news has come out that HarperCollins will now institute library lending caps. A library is only allowed to lend a book 26 times for 2 weeks each before that license to access that book “expires” and then the library must purchase a new license. Essentially that is like making the library buy a NEW print copy of the book once a year.

Oh! and the publishers want to look at the library patron data to see if the library is actually observing territorial and geographic restrictions.

Here’s how digital lending works now:

1) Library buys digital book through Overdrive at regular cost (not through promotional pricing).
2) Library lends the digital book to one reader at a time for a period of three weeks. of varying weeks depending on the fufillment service.
3) Library CANNOT re-lend book until the three weeks expires EVEN IF the reader returns it early, depending on the fulfillment service. Some books can be relent when the book is returned.

Please let me repeat step 2. The library lends the digital book ONE READER AT TIME. There are very long wait lists for digital books.

Here’s just a few reasons why this move by HarperCollins is so unbelievably bad.

1) Restricting library usage of digital books will not slow down ebook adoption because ebook adoption is a by product of digital media adoption. As TV and movies and music goes, so will books. Or books will just be left behind.

2) Reducing visibility in the libraries will reduce discoverability by readers. Reduced discoverability is the last thing that publishers can afford to have happen to its books.

3) Reducing legitimate access to books will make it easier for readers to justify piracy. Don’t give them that opportunity.

Or as Courtney Milan points out:

A lend from a library is never as good as a purchase. People do it because they are readers, and they put up with it because it is really, really expensive to support a flat-out voracious reading habit on your own dime.

Publishers, if you make it impossible for young people-those in the "under 25″ category-to support a good reading habit on their own dime, these people are not going to start magically spending money on books when they start making a decent income. No; at that point, they'll already have started spending their time haunting hulu instead, where they can actually get free entertainment. And when they start making money, they'll be buying iTunes streams of those shows they watched for free.

What’s probably even more distasteful is the lipservice that publishers were giving to libraries at these past digital conferences. Deep down, I think publishers (and some authors) hate libraries and used bookstores. Also swapping sites.   One thing readers can do is start to tell other readers why certain books aren’t in their digital library catalog. It isn’t the library’s fault. Tell your reading friends where the fault lies and that is with the publishers and then you can tell them what types of books that publisher puts out.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

119 Comments

  1. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:41:54

    1) Library buys digital book through Overdrive at regular cost (not through promotional pricing.

    I’ve read they actually pay a “library price” which can be higher than regular list. Don’t know for sure if that’s true or not though.

    2) Library lends the digital book to one reader at a time for a period of three weeks.

    The lending periods can be selected by the borrower at checkout as 7, 14 or 21 days. At least at any library I’ve used.

    3) Library CANNOT re-lend book until the three weeks expires EVEN IF the reader returns it early

    Not true in my experience. Once the book’s been returned it’s available for checkout again.

  2. mischab1
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:42:15

    Maybe it depends on the library? My experience is with the Oregon Digiral Library Consortium thru Overdrive.

    1 – Books are lent to one person at time for a period of 7 days. (All the interesting books generally have a wait list.)
    2 – An individual person is allowed to “check out” 6 ebooks at a time.
    3 – Ebooks are in Adobe DRM EPUB format.
    4 – If you finish a book early you can “return” it. (This last piece can’t be done from Overdrive’s own reader, you have to download the book into Adobe Digital Editions instead.)

  3. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:53:10

    @mischab1 Must depend on the library. I checked with one librarian and she indicated book couldn’t be relent. My library allows for only one period of time to check out the book.

  4. Janet P.
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:53:28

    Courtney Milan is a very wise woman, but then we already knew that. You too Jane.

    One of the main purposes of the existence of libraries is to promote literacy to the population as a whole. As a Library volunteer, we talk long and hard about how to make sure we are bringing literacy and books to those underserved segments of our population who otherwise wouldn’t have books.

    Whenever a Publisher tries to thwart that mission, they are removing potential customers from the Marketplace.

    I’m curious as to how those who make our Library Purchasing decisions will view this when it comes time to stretch those tight budgets. Somehow I doubt that HC books (and those who follow along) will all the sudden cost 30% less to reflect those limitations.

    Will librarians pressure Overdrive to attempt to increase catalog listings from Publishers and Authors who don’t limit the effective use of the books? Will patrons accept this as a valid reason as to why the next Susan Eliz Phillips book might not be available on Overdrive?

  5. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:53:50

    @Brian I know that for print books, libraries can buy at a discount but not for digital books but maybe that is only true for Agency priced books?

  6. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:58:33

    @Janet P. One data point I have heard publishers assert is that the library patron is not a buying customer. And to that I say, how would they know. For the most part, the Big 6 hasn’t done market research since forever. About the only publisher I know of that actually does market research is Harlequin. Of course, they don’t allow person to person lending either.

    As I commented over at Sarah’s blog today, I am so fed up with these antics, I wonder why I even post about them. In other words, these actions are inevitably going to hurt the publishers and the authors and should we even care?

  7. Susan Reader
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:04:28

    I imagine details about loan length, whether a book is ‘returnable’ early, etc. depend on the specific library’s arrangement with a specific distributer (Overdrive is dominant but I don’t think they’re the only ones). I’ve dealt with two libraries, one has two-week and the other has three-week lending, and one puts ‘returned’ books back on the ‘shelf’ as soon as they’re returned while the other does not until the loan period is finished.

    However, all that is small potatoes next to the fact that HARPERCOLLINS IS/ARE BEING JERKS.

  8. ME
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:16:03

    I’m curious as to how many times a popular print book is lent out before it falls apart and the library has to re-purchase the book. Can anyone answer that?

  9. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:20:53

    Here’s what MacMillan CEO John Sargent (a chief instigator of Agency pricing) had to say about libraries and ebooks last year…

    “That is a very thorny problem”, said Sargent. In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it’s a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it. How is that a good model for us?”

    “If there’s a model where the publisher gets a piece of the action every time the book is borrowed, that’s an interesting model.”

    …from http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2010/03/ebooks-in-libraries-thorny-problem-says.html

    While maybe not as potentially expensive as Sargent’s pay per use idea Harper’s policy could be just as disastrous to a lot of libraries with their often shrinking budgets.

  10. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:24:28

    @ME:
    Well from what John Sargent said…

    If it’s a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder.

    I don’t know about that. It seems to me libraries would get a lot more than ten lends out of their books most of the time. Would love to hear from some librarians who have actual data though.

  11. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:26:07

    @ME: Karen S. just commented on that at the SB post:

    Okay, the idea that 26 checkouts is the “average” lifespan of a book is total bs. I work for the branches of a small-city library system and one of my recent projects was checking to see if some of the copies of fiction titles at a larger branch could be replaced with those at a smaller branch. Most of the copies that needed replacing because of actual structural deterioration of the book had gone out about 80+times (if not more-‘quite a few had gone out 100+times and weren't too bad). If a book hadn't gone out of the larger branch more than 40-50 times, I usually didn't bother checking the condition.

    They have to be including the books that have damage from something other than normal use-‘the ones that have been dropped in the bathtub, torn apart by the dog, etc.

    I’m just astonished by this. I know I shouldn’t be, considered how many bad decisions publishers are making. But 26 is just beyond insulting. They must really think we’re stupid.

    If you were looking for evidence that publishers couldn’t care less about books (as something other than a marketable product), reading, readers, and libraries, it doesn’t get much more convincing than this.

  12. ME
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:26:33

    I would too, since it’s kind of the same idea, no?

  13. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:27:28

    @ME One librarian on Twitter (Super Wendy) says it varies a great deal from book to book. I’ve been 50th in line for a popular print book before.

  14. ME
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:28:05

    @Sunita, thanks for the info. I might poll my local libraries as well.

  15. Let’s Play Rent-A-Book! | David Lee King
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:28:17

    […] another good article, on the Dear Author blog […]

  16. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:28:57

    @Sunita There are quite a few authors who find this to be unobjectionable. I know that there is a lot of unhappiness about used book sales and library usage and maybe this will push some of that to be more evident.

  17. ME
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:29:38

    @Jane

    well it seems to me the publishers need to do a bit more research then as to how many times is reasonable for a book to be lent out before having to repurchase it. I get that part, I just think their numbers are wonky.

  18. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:32:17

    @ME It’s actually not. Libraries can buy paper books at a discount but not digital books. Libraries can pull a non performing print title from circulation and sell it but not with digital books. There are many rights that imbue to print books that allow Libraries to make books accessible to readers that it isn’t allowed to do with digital books. Maybe if you even out the rights, then imposing artificial restrictions make more sense.

    But what is really happening here is that libraries are getting taxed for allowing digital lending and those that are going to be hurt the most are a) authors (bc piracy will undoubtedly increase b) libraries (because patronage will decrease and thus so will funding and c) people in the lower income bracket who can’t afford to buy books or enough books to feed their reading habit so maybe they will spend more time on the computer, watching TV, going to movies instead of reading.

  19. LG
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:32:52

    Thank you (repeated many, many times). And that last quote from Courtney Milan is excellent. I’m really hoping that we’re not going to end up with a situation where publishers finally realize what libraries did for them when it’s too late.

    There are many, many authors I would never even have tried out if it weren’t for libraries – when I was a college student I couldn’t afford it. Even now, when I get paychecks that are actually big enough to give me a luxuries budget (college and my job search ended 2.5 years ago, and I still haven’t quite gotten over the joy of realizing that buying fun stuff doesn’t mean I then have to start skimping on food), I can’t afford to buy everything I have my eyes on. If libraries weren’t around, why would I even think to buy books I’m iffy about? Libraries help me try stuff out when even reviews can’t convince me that an author is to my tastes. And trying those books out just might lead to me getting so hooked on an author that I’ll BUY their next book.

  20. ME
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:37:42

    @Jane

    thanks for the info.

  21. LG
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:39:40

    @Jane: Yes, although some libraries aren’t actually allowed to sell the books they withdraw. In those cases, however, the books might be donated to an organization that really needs them (one library I worked at donated them to a senior center, my current library invites teachers from local schools to look through our withdrawn textbooks to see if they’d like to take them, etc.). One way or another, print books tend to have a life beyond just the check-outs they get. E-books don’t, and HarperCollins is trying to make the situation even worse.

  22. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:40:05

    I’m still reeling from what Sargent said in that interview:

    You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it. How is that a good model for us?”

    “If there’s a model where the publisher gets a piece of the action every time the book is borrowed, that’s an interesting model.”

    So a book is no different from a movie or TV show. The cognitive benefits of reading are indistinguishable from the cognitive benefits of watching a video (or he doesn’t care if they’re different). And libraries are just these places he sells books to. Like a store, except the people who run the library don’t charge and let more than one person read the book.

    Why is someone who has no respect for what books mean to an individual and to society the head of a BOOK publishing company?

  23. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:48:51

    Also, what “action” does Sargent think HC is being excluded from? They’re libraries, FFS, not nightclubs. There’s no action! People are reading his books and then maybe, if they can afford it, going on to build their own collections. Someone needs to teach him the difference between a sale and a service.

  24. Tweets that mention nonlib post about #hcod HarperCollins in cagematch with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better -- Topsy.com
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:48:52

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bobbi Newman, Heather Braum and Joan Frances Turner, Cyprinella Jones. Cyprinella Jones said: Man, this Harpercollins library thing is some serious bullshit. http://bit.ly/i2LrXf […]

  25. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:52:34

    @Sunita: Sargent is from MacMillan, not HC. His company doesn’t allow library lending of ebooks at all. By ‘action’ I assume he want’s a cut each time a book is checked out.

  26. Liza Lester
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:54:46

    I bought at least one book that I borrowed in digital from the Seattle Public Library last year–in mass market paperback, so that I could lend it to a friend, who read it voraciously and then lent it to her mother. Both are asking about the back-list from this author, who is one I had bypassed many times as the bookstore. So there are three new potential buyers from one digital loan.

    I also have friends who pride themselves on never purchasing a book, however. They say this with a kind of puritanical self-satisfaction that implies spending $15 on a book is self-indulgent and wasteful. They won’t participate in a book club if they would have to buy a book. I am disturbed by this attitude. These are not, for the most part, starving artists/poor grad students/struggling waitresses (they may have been in the past). They can afford to buy books occasionally, and would think nothing of dropping $15 on drinks.

    It would be interesting to see my anecdotes replaced with data!

  27. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:55:35

    I’m not sure my disgust for a publisher will ever reach what I feel for Macmillan, who has IMO committed multiple, ongoing, un-atoned-for sins against readers, but geez, pretty soon I’m going to be buying really few new books from the NY trad pubs. Thank goodness for the stubbornly thriving UBS businesses. Oh, wait, that’s not the direction those pubs want me to take, is it. And yet, they’re driving me that way themselves. Hmm.

  28. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:58:21

  29. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:03:24

    @LG I’ve seen many a thrifty budget article with that suggestion (don’t buy books or magazines, use the library) but that is not unique to digital books.

  30. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:11:09

    @Brian: Oops, thanks for the correction. Robin, I’m definitely starting to see where you’re coming from.

    I’m still confused by the comment, since there is nothing to take a “cut” from. Libraries don’t charge patrons per book, and most public libraries don’t charge anything at all for a card. If he wants a cut of what a small number of libraries charge out-of-town patrons to get cards, it should be a cut of the yearly fee for the card. I don’t think he’ll get McMillan out of the red with that.

  31. LG
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:23:51

    @Sunita: I think Sargent is assuming that library users would be buying these books if they weren’t checking them out from the library. I’m guessing that, from his perspective, every time a user borrows a book, his company is losing a sale.

  32. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:28:09

    @Sunita: Some libraries do charge for some books. Our local library system now charges $4 to borrow new release Hardcovers or so I’ve been told.

    He wants the library to pay an unspecified amount per book lent to the publisher. Kind of how Adobe gets a fee each and every time a book is downloaded with their DRM applied. I’m sure he doesn’t care if the library pays this themselves or if they pass this on to the individual patron.

    I know in the UK there is some kind of system where an author can be paid based on how many times their pbook is lent, but I know none of the details on that.

  33. library addict
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:30:32

    What makes books different from other digital media? As far as I know, the movie studios don’t limit the number of times DVDs can be loaned out. Nor is there a limit to the number of times CDs or digital audio books may be checked out.

  34. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:30:47

    @Brian: my library has an express system where you pay a fee to “jump the line” so to speak (i.e., there are a few copies reserved for the express system where you can pay and not be on the waitlist. if you don’t want to pay, you wait.)

  35. HollyY
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:37:52

    @Brian:
    I AM a librarian and obviously MacMillan CEO John Sargent doesn’t know how this stuff works (best case scenario) or he is willfully lying about how this stuff works. I hope it’s the former and he just needs to educate himself. Our library belongs to a consortium and a NUMBER of libraries participate.

    Readers MUST be authenticated BY LIBRARY so there is no “With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing.” Readers MAY not search libraries in other STATES. Heck, in Iowa they can’t even search other libraries IN their state. And they may NOT just use a different library card. Home library only.

    The system uses digital rights management. One patron…one book. The max number of books within our consortium is three and that’s any combo of eBook and/or audiobook. Three.

    AND the books are usually out and readers have to wait their turn to get a book to check out. They place a hold and if they don’t check out that hold within a couple of days, they lose their place in line.

    It’s one thing for libraries to replace a book because it’s become ragged from use – we do that. But eBooks aren’t shredded after 26 uses. There is no good reason for this new rule they want to institute. Especially when library budgets are being slashed right and left.

  36. HollyY
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:40:27

    This is bad news for authors too. Books get a trying out in the library because the check out is free. Then readers will often go out and BUY books by an author who becomes a favorite.

  37. LG
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:44:14

    @HollyY: I think there may be widespread misunderstanding of how library lending of e-books works. Details may differ from one library to the next, but I’ve not yet heard of a library that may lend e-books to users who have a different home library. We occasionally have people who come to my library, find out that the book they want isn’t available, and then ask if the e-book is available at another library. We have to tell them that, while it may be available, they can’t use it – there is no ILL service for e-books, but not everyone seems to know that.

  38. GrowlyCub
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 15:56:27

    How dumb are these people? Where do they think the money for these extra booksales will come from? What it will mean is that libraries won’t bother to buy those titles because they cannot afford to and don’t want to tease their poor patrons with books they won’t get to read anyway.

    How willfully blind can these publisher executives be before they drive their companies into the ground?

    The future is here, deal with it!

  39. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:02:00

    @Sunita: I Sargent’s view become clearer when you read the quotes highlighted here: http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/my-letter-to-john-sargent-ceo-of-macmillan/

    I think Sargent truly believes that readers are ‘getting something for nothing’ at libraries. It’s a horrifying thought, IMO, but everything he’s said on the subject of libraries and digital books generally leads me to that same conclusion. On my way to the UBS, that is. ;D

  40. Kristi
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:07:16

    Great article. Had to repost on Facebook.

  41. wendy
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:16:58

    @GrowlyCub

    I heart you.

  42. The Publisher of Tolkien Has Taken a Business Lesson from Sauron « Agnostic, Maybe
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:17:34

    […] Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagemathc with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better (Dear Author) […]

  43. Lynnd
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:22:47

    @Robin: Perhaps Mr. Sargent forgets that we pay for libraries out of our tax dollars and libraries our tax dollars go to buying books from his company. How much money would Macmillan lose if libraries didn’t buy their books?

  44. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:32:56

    @Robin: Yes, I think he fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of libraries, and clearly thinks they are some sort of competition. Even though Overdrive & Adobe have done everything they can to make the digital lending process mimic physical lending.

    If Sargent had been around when Andrew Carnegie starting endowing libraries, he probably would have criticized him for giving people something for nothing. Bad business plan, that.

  45. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:33:48

    @Lynnd: I cynically believe there is a two-pronged desire in play here to a) save the HC print model, and b) make as much as possible off the growing digital market.

    But as I said on SBTB, I think Macmillan and HC (and other agency pubs) underestimate the adaptability of readers. More swapping sites, more casual lending, more UBS sales, more game and movie and video purchases — oh, and probably more piracy. That, IMO, is what’s going to come of this idiocy.

    Not to mention the effects all that will have on authors, who gain sales from who knows how many readers who purchase a book they loved after checking it out from the library, or who buy an author’s backlist after taking a book for a test-drive at the library.

  46. Mike Cane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:34:00

    >>>What's probably even more distasteful is the lipservice that publishers were giving to libraries at these past digital conferences.

    What lip service? Conference after conference always discussing the SAME DAMN ISSUES! How long does it take these thickheads to catch on that they are useless and are BEING IGNORED?

  47. Liz
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:35:11

    We have all watched as the music industry made bad decision after bad decision as the digital world expanded. Although the publishing industry was a bit slow out of the starting gate, I at least hoped that they had been paying attention for the last several years, and could analyze what had occured and make informed decisions that would help them expand and thrive. Instead, time and time again, we have seen policies like this that not only demonstrate poor business acumen, but almost a complete disconnect from the reality that most of their customers live in. Courtney Milan’s got it right, and if they don’t wake up and face reality soon, there isn’t going to be an industry left to save.

  48. Wendy
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:37:28

    What publishers fail to fully grasp is that libraries aren’t “free.” The residents that live within the library’s district are funding that library with their tax dollars. If you live outside the zoning area for the library? You aren’t paying taxes for it. Ergo, you can’t get a library card without paying some sort of non-resident fee.

    I don’t know any library in the US that doesn’t lock-down their digital collections in some way. For my system, you MUST have a library card number and a password to access our ebooks. Period. End of story. Also, as others have mentioned – the ebooks work the same way as print books. If it’s checked out? You wait. You should see some of the ginormous wait lists we have on our ebooks when we only have purchased one digital copy. Yikes!

    Like I mentioned to Jane on Twitter – there is no magical number of how long a book is going to last when it comes to lending. I’ve had mmpbs last 50 circs and hard covers made with cheap paper come back with ripped out spines after 10 circs. Then there’s the older Mary Higgins Clark book I pitched last year that went out 200+ times! Granted we had sent it to be rebound at some point but still….200+ times!

    My guess? If Harpercollins has their way – libraries just won’t purchase their books in digital. Look, the sad fact of life is that libraries have been expected to add more and more formats over the years as our budgets have dwindled down to nothing. My library is trying to support an ebook collection ON TOP of all our other collections (children’s, adult, fiction, nonfiction, Large Print, CDs, DVDs, digital audio etc.) and our materials budget is 60% less than it was last year.

    60% less.

    So if HC is going to put a restriction on how we deal with that aspect of our collection? We’ll funnel what few meager digital dollars we have to different publishers. Our library users are gonna hate it – but we’ll just have to get really good at explaining to them that we’re not the “bad guys.”

    Although wait a minute – I’m a public employee. I keep forgetting. I AM the bad guy. /end sarcasm.

  49. Pat
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:39:49

    I go through at least 300 books a year, far more if you count the ones I toss aside after a few chapters. They almost all come from the library. There is no way I could possibly buy that many books.

    Most of the books I do buy are by authors I first encountered through the library, and many of them are books I read and liked enough to be fairly sure I will want to reread them in the future.

    My book-buying budget is not going to keep any publisher out of the red, so I doubt Mr. Sargent cares what I think, but he really is an ass.

  50. Susanna Kearsley
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:46:23

    I have never, never understood why some publishers (and, as you say, some authors) have this adversarial approach to libraries and used bookstores.

    I love both. I mean, LOVE them. The only way I could feed my reading habit in my youth was to use the library, and I honestly can’t count the number of favourite authors whose books I discovered there. And my own kids are doing the same, now.

    I can’t imagine life without a library.

    And there’s nothing like spending an hour in a used bookstore, either. I have a favourite one in London, England, and another one not far from where I live that has a back room with a spinning rack stuffed full of 1970s and 80s Harlequin Presents, the ones I read and loved when I was in my teens.

    So when people complain, I’m afraid I don’t get it, anymore than I understand why HarperCollins would do something petty like this.

    Surely libraries already have more than enough headaches, without HarperCollins adding to them.

  51. Juliana Stone
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:47:47

    @Brian

    As a Canadian author I can register with our public lending rights commision. They track books via ISBN and once a year a cheque is issued in lieu of lost royalties. Other countries in Europe have this system, including the UK I believel, but not the USA.

    as an aside, several of my auto buy authors are there, because I picked up their books at the beautiful library in my town, one that yes, my tax dollars support.

  52. Janet P.
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:48:07

    “I think Sargent truly believes that readers are ‘getting something for nothing' at libraries.”

    Something for nothing?

    Maybe I’ll scan my property tax bill and send it off to him with the “Library District” line highlighted.

  53. Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back | Librarian by Day
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:51:22

    […] Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagematch with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better | Dea… says: February 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm […]

  54. sarah mayberry
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:00:00

    Like many high level executives, Mr Sargent’s job is to make money. I would hazard a guess that that is all he cares about. Period. Please note, this is not an excuse, but just an observation. We (the readers and writers and hopefully the editors) are the one’s who are passionate about books and reading and literacy and spreading the word. The rest of the publishing industry exists to make money off us.

    There is so much panic around in publishing circles at the moment about the way the future will look that they’re flailing around and grabbing at anything that looks as though it might float in terms of creating revenue. My hope is that as the future shape of publishing becomes a little more visible, some of this flailing around will shake down to a more reasonable model – hopefully without destroying too many of the writers and publishing houses that have given many of us hours and hours of reading pleasure.

    I love the library, when I can get there, and I have discovered many of my favourite authors there – Sherry Thomas, who’s entire collection I immediately ordered, Victoria Dahl, who’s books I immediately ordered, etc, etc. When you read a lot, you have to use the library or you simply wouldn’t eat (or shoe shop, which is also vital to life as I know it). To suggest that library users don’t buy books is to underestimate the covetous nature of book lovers. If I love a book and an author, I want it on my keepers shelf. I want to be able to go read it again any time I like. And I don’t think I’m so weird that I’m the only person out there like this.

  55. Jane A
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:00:19

    Unbelievable. There really are no words to describe such boneheaded decisions.

    I think the only sensible decision is to stop “buying” library ebooks from HC. My state (California) is facing huge cuts to the library budget. Despite the awesomeness of being able to check digital books out of the library I don’t want my tax dollars going towards a bad investment. Or into the pockets of morons.

  56. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:02:35

    @HollyY:

    Readers MAY not search libraries in other STATES.

    That may be the case in general, there is however at least one library I know of that for $15 you can get a non-resident card and check out ebooks from them through Overdrive (have read about others). I also know they’re making those cards available to anyone worldwide.

    The system uses digital rights management. One patron…one book. The max number of books within our consortium is three and that's any combo of eBook and/or audiobook. Three.

    My local library system allows a combination of 15 digital items. The other library I have access to allows 10. Both allow checkout times of 7, 14 or 21 days selectable by the user.

    It's one thing for libraries to replace a book because it's become ragged from use – we do that. But eBooks aren't shredded after 26 uses.

    Totally agree that the 26 uses number is complete crap. On the other hand should there be some limit? If a library pays $8 for a new eBook should they be able to lend it for the next 2, 5, 20 years from that one $8 purchase (10, 20, 100, 500 lends)? I don’t know. I can see some of the publishers side of things too though at least a little bit.

    I don’t know that I have a huge problem with them wanting libraries to only lend them to those who would be their normal patrons as opposed to everyone anywhere who buys a card. That is kind of turning them into a Netflix like service.

  57. Feature: Digital lending & why libraries sell books | Some old story
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:16:39

    […] and discussion, I suggest visiting Bobbi Newman’s post, and also seeing what SB Sarah and Jane at Dear Author have to say from the reader’s […]

  58. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:21:04

    I sat down and looked at what I’ve borrowed from the library in 2010 and what purchases I can directly attribute to that.

    In 2010 between the two libraries I have access to I borrowed forty one books.

    A lot of those were books I would never have purchased as I like to try anything at least once and a bunch turned out to not be my cup of tea. A few were from authors I kinda like, but not enough that I was willing to buy the book.

    However ten of those books I can directly attribute the purchase of thirty three books and nine audiobooks. Those ten books were all from authors new to me and I’ll likely be buying more of them in the future.

    I’ve also ended up buying a bunch of books from other authors, recommended because I liked the author of the library books.

  59. LG
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:26:23

    @Brian: “On the other hand should there be some limit? If a library pays $8 for a new eBook should they be able to lend it for the next 2, 5, 20 years from that one $8 purchase (10, 20, 100, 500 lends)? I don't know. I can see some of the publishers side of things too though at least a little bit.”

    Some things to consider:

    The “$8 for use for the next 2, 5, 20 years” issue is only an issue for publishers if you don’t consider technology changes. A file I can use now is probably going to be useless as-is 20 years down the line…or maybe even 5. There’s also the issue of companies changing or going out of business. I’ve never worked at a library that buys OverDrive e-books – what happens if OverDrive were to disappear? I wonder the same thing about our NetLibrary books, actually.

  60. Carin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:31:19

    You know, I might consider paying for a Netflix type model for ebooks if it meant I could read what I want when I want.

    I borrow ebooks from my library. I browse online and pick out books I’d like. Then I put holds on them, because I can’t find any without holds that I want to borrow. And then I wait and wait and wait. I’m only allowed to have 10 holds. So I put them on hold and I wait. This library ebook model is a far cry from “Netflix for free” (Well, I think it is, since I’ve never actually used Netflix myself.)

  61. Lynnd
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:32:23

    @Robin: I agree with you on the motives of HC and some other publishers and on the results that their actions will ultimately have.

    As I’ve been reading through these posts, I’ve been thinking about the number of books which I would not have purchased had I not been able to “test-drive” the books first and just off the top of my head, I could list at least 10 authors whose books I now automatically buy because of my wonderful public library.

    As access to libraries becomes more and more limited as funding is cut (reduced hours and branch closures), ebooks are a great addition to the many services libraries provide.

    Ultimately, I think it is authors who will ultimately be hurt the most by these kinds of publisher decisions.

  62. Keishon
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:42:34

    What publishers fail to fully grasp is that libraries aren't “free.” The residents that live within the library's district are funding that library with their tax dollars. If you live outside the zoning area for the library? You aren't paying taxes for it. Ergo, you can't get a library card without paying some sort of non-resident fee.

    That is exactly right. I’m a library patron myself and often will check out ebooks from time to time when I don’t want to front the money on a new author. But I can always discover new authors from those few readers who still buy new who will eventually dump them at the used book store. That works for me.

  63. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 17:44:53

    @LG: I get what you’re saying, but at the same time we’re getting closer to a point where we have one format and that format can do a pretty good job of replicating a print book (for fiction anyway) and the reading software is where things need to catch up. In the early days formats came and went like crazy, but that’s not the case anymore. I was just throwing it out there as something to think about. Publishers are afraid right now that the $8 purchase lend-able for 20 years may become a reality and libraries are a big source of income for them. What happens if/when in the future libraries are buying more digital copies than print?

    As far as if Overdrive went away, well it’s always a possibility. It’s happened on the retail side of things in the past (remember Kindle isn’t Amazon’s first go at ebooks and folks lost all there ebooks from them once already). It’s all a risk that’s got to be looked at and factored in.

    Anyway, just throwing it all out there for discussion. If I had my way both MacMillan and S&S would allow lending and Overdrive would open things up to make it easier for small pubs to get their stuff into the system too. HC’s 26 times number is crap and I don’t buy their ‘this is the average lifespan of a pbook bunk, but their wanting to have libraries lending in their own areas of the country (and world) aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure the fact that I was able to ‘buy’ a library card for a library 1,000 miles away and borrow ebooks scares the heck out of publishers.

  64. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:00:47

    @sarah mayberry:

    To suggest that library users don't buy books is to underestimate the covetous nature of book lovers. If I love a book and an author, I want it on my keepers shelf. I want to be able to go read it again any time I like. And I don't think I'm so weird that I'm the only person out there like this.

    Absolutely. My keeper shelf has turned digital, but it’s still there. I read around 300 books a year (the majority purchased) and would be lost without the library as a resource.

  65. Ridley
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:04:25

    Welp, it looks like my “to-buy-agency-5″ list over at Goodreads isn’t going to be contracting any time soon.

    It’s a bummer for sure, but I haven’t been hurting for reading material in the least during my agency boycott. They may be the largest publishers, but they’re not the only publishers.

  66. Lindsay
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:07:30

    @Robin:

    This is how I see it too – publishers can make some extra money if libraries cough up, and if they stop carrying digital copies of their books, well then that nixes part of the digital threat. Win-win!

    I hope pushback from libraries and readers will make them rethink this utterly boneheaded strategy.

  67. jennIRL
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:09:58

    small fact-check — the agency model actually doesn’t mean that Macmillan prices its ebooks the same as its print. see, for example, Randy Susan Meyers’ MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS, which is $14.99 in paperback and $9.99 in digital. i know it’s a little aside the point, but the agency model often takes a beating for things that it shouldn’t, and as an indie bookseller who appreciates having price parity with Amazon and Google, it’s something i’m particularly aware of.

    that being said, this is definitely a disturbing and worrisome trend. here’s hoping that Macmillan and HC both reconsider.

  68. Brian
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:14:49

    small fact-check -‘ the agency model actually doesn't mean that Macmillan prices its ebooks the same as its print. see, for example, Randy Susan Meyers' MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS, which is $14.99 in paperback and $9.99 in digital.

    At the same time there are Agency titles too where the list price of the paper version is lower than the list price for the digital.

    It’s all over the place at the moment, but by far most Agency books (especially mass market) are priced $1 less or the same as the print version. However the retailer can discount the print version.

  69. Ridley
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:33:08

    In mass-market, Penguin prices ebooks $1 less than print and everyone else marks them at the same price as print.

    Since this blog generally reviews romance, which is overwhelmingly published in MMPB, I don’t think Jane’s statement is misleading at all.

  70. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:36:59

    @sarah mayberry:

    Like many high level executives, Mr Sargent's job is to make money. I would hazard a guess that that is all he cares about. Period. Please note, this is not an excuse, but just an observation. We (the readers and writers and hopefully the editors) are the one's who are passionate about books and reading and literacy and spreading the word. The rest of the publishing industry exists to make money off us.

    Then you'd think they'd be smarter about how to do that, wouldn't you? (I'm not critiquing your point here, btw, just using it as a jump off point for my own)

    What's absolutely baffling, BAFFLING to me is the way publishers have been so utterly disconnected from their end users that they are blindly making these decisions that not only make bad business sense, IMO, but that also reflect the history of bad decisions that has created the kind of desperation this latest decision suggests.

    I've often said that IMO these trad pubs think of themselves as natural monopolies. I don't know if I can think of a corporate presence that is more disconnected from the needs, habits, desires, interests, and buying patterns of end user consumers. And when you think about how many ways in which many of us WANT to buy as many books as possible, it amazes me that these publishers have remained in business for as long as they have. Inefficient business practices must have been profitable enough for long enough that they have been able to survive. Which, again, speaks to how much COULD be made if these pubs actually figured out how to sell books most efficiently and most profitably.

    @Susanna Kearsley:

    The only way I could feed my reading habit in my youth was to use the library, and I honestly can't count the number of favourite authors whose books I discovered there. And my own kids are doing the same, now.

    THIS.

    One of the reasons (well, two) this infuriates me so much is because it shows the shortsightedness of this strategy. When you enable library addiction, you enable lifelong readers. And, thus, you enable lifelong book buyers. That publishers don’t get this or don’t believe this is all sorts of sad.

    Beyond that (reason two) is the inherent bias against moderate and low-income readers this policy represents (of course, the whole ‘do away with the public library in times of budgetary stress’ is more significant). I know people believe that ereaders are objects of luxury and that they are only for upper income folks (even though I’m proof against that supposition, lol), but given the number of people who read only on their computers, along with the fact that at least 3/4 of people in America own computers (not to mention the growth of the smart phone and the new affordability of digital reading devices), I think there’s a real issue here in terms of limiting access to books for library users who prefer digital formats but cannot afford to purchase all their digital books, especially for their children. That is, it’s helping to discourage widespread digital adoption across income lines.

    General question — does this and/or how does this affect people with disabilities who borrow digital books from the library?

  71. Ridley
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:49:00

    @Robin:

    It totally bones physically disabled readers. I’m quite lucky in that my husband has a high paying job and that I can generally afford to buy my ebooks. For other people like me who can’t read paper books comfortably or at all, but lack the funds to buy everything they want to read, they’re going to have their book selection slashed. Libraries in most communities operate on a shoestring budget. Much as librarians would like to get these books for their patrons, they won’t be able to justify the cost. Able-bodied readers could then just sigh and check out the print copy instead. Disabled readers are just flat SOL.

  72. Milena
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:02:26

    Dear publishers,

    for a long, long time, I wasn’t really your customer; distributors were. I understand that it’s difficult for you to perceive the difference — after all, this digital technology has been around for a relatively short time — but still, times are changing, and it’s time for you to change with them. Distributors are no longer your customers — I am. I, the reader.

    And I am not alone; there are millions of us. Not casual readers who only buy the latest, most buzzed book, or only get books as presents. I am talking here about voracious, true readers. We are the ones you should be thinking about. Without us, you’re history. The people who have only ever read The Da Vinci Code won’t even bother with your shenaningans. They’ll just wait for the movie version, anyway.

    We are your future. We were your past, too, but you didn’t realise that. OK, fine. We can be patient — for a while. But as time goes on, you’re wearing that patience rather thin.

    We are your present, too. Because, you see, we love books. We love them so much. We buy them whenever we can; sometimes we spend grocery money on them. But sometimes, grocery money is just too short.

    And what do we do then? We turn to trusted sources: friends, libraries. We borrow books. Not because we don’t want to pay you, but because we can’t. Not always, and not always the price you’d like us to pay.

    Because, you see, we are spread all over the place. All over the world, and all over the social strata. There are voracious readers in Third World countries, just as there are in the richest; in Sweden and India, just like in the States. Some of us earn the price of about three of your books in a week. And we still buy books. Because we love them.

    Yes, we also borrow them. Even drug addicts won’t try a completely unknown substance if they have to pay for it. Similarly, we won’t buy a completely unknown author. Because we all love different things, and what works for some of us may be a total flop for others.

    Also like drug addicts, we mostly came to our books with the “first one is free” policy. A friend pushed a book on us, telling us “you simply must read this, it’s brilliant!”; or someone gave us a book as a present, adding: “I’m sure you’ll like it”; or a kind librarian pointed us towards an author, saying “if you like what you’ve just returned, this would be a good fit for you”.

    I personally own way too many books. I’m not kidding. There are books in every single room in my house. Thousands and thousands of books. Some were bought second hand. Some were presents. But the vast majority of those books were purchased, full price, new. Almost none of those, however, were purchased blindly; they were either authors I have read before and trusted, or else came highly recommended. OK, I’ll admit it: some first came to me as dirt-cheap second hands, and got the shiny new additions later. But they wouldn’t have come at all if I had to pay a hard-cover price sight unseen. It’s not as if I would die without new books, you see. I already own thousands, remember?

    I also have many, many electronic books. Unlike my paper books, however, they are mostly freebies. Not because I don’t want to pay for e-books. But because, when I buy a book, I don’t want to rent it. I don’t want you or anyone else telling me what I can or cannot do with my purchase. I don’t want to love a book and then be unable to lend it to my best friend. I don’t want to hate a book and then be unable to pass it on to someone who would love it, and would give it a better home.

    There is also the fact that I am not an American. Oftentimes, even when I want to give you my money, you don’t want it, because you feel that, while selling me a paper book and sending it by post from wherever is all right, selling me a digital edition is not. I won’t even go there. Suffice it to say that all of the e-books I have bought and paid came from publishers who respected me, trusted me, and treated me like their customer.

    I am your customer. I and people like me; people who read as much as they can, who love books, and who are still willing to give you money just so you could continue making them. Don’t push us away. And don’t, for books’ sake, try to tell us that going to the library is somehow stealing from you. Without the libraries, you wouldn’t have half the sales you do.

    We are not anonymous, but we are also legion. And we’re still here… for a while. But don’t expect us to hang around forever.

    (With apologies to DA for using their standard format.)

  73. Bianca
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:09:21

    We need a Netflix model for ebooks, that much is clear. Not these Agency pricing, money grabbing shenanigans.

    If publishers don’t start changing with the times, they’ll get buried. It’s really that simple.

  74. Man of la Book
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:18:23

    Great entry.

    The stupidity and greed of corporate America never ceases to amaze me.

    First with the eBook pricing and now this idiocy. It’s amazing to seat by the sidelines and watch the publishing industry make the same mistakes the music and industry made.

    How did that work out for them?

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  75. Linda S
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:24:36

    I am a librarian who works at a library system with a huge digital clientele. This is a terrible precedent and I hope that our efforts to fight it won’t be meaningless.

    I support what Courtney Milan says, but what the library provides doesn’t stop there. I read so much that I buy some that I know I will want to keep and that I can’t wait for, but check out new authors from the library. When I get hooked on an author, then they move to the buy list. Also, we are constantly recommending books to people, who probably follow my pattern to some extent. I know through our online book recommendation service, we recommend thousands of titles a month and I’m sure that people don’t get all of them from the library — they buy them, too. We are really reading pushers, buy or borrow, and I wish we were always seen as allies.

  76. brooksse
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:35:32

    When I first read that quote of John Sargent’s last year, I couldn’t help thinking how ignorant it sounded. A year later, I’m still thinking the same thing.

    My local library doesn’t carry ebooks, but nearby Houston does have a digital library that includes fiction ebooks. And I think their library cards are free to Texas residents.

    So if I were to get a library card from the Houston Public Library, this is what would happen. After browsing their collection and filtering out the ebooks that aren’t available for immediate download, the ones I’m not interested in, and the ones in the wrong formats, not much is left over to choose from. So instead I’ll just buy a new ebook from an online retailer.

    On the other hand, if I were still reading paper books, I could check different branches online until I found the nearest branch that had a copy available of some book I was interested in, reserve that book online, then go pick it tomorrow morning. I might pass a bookstore between my home and the library, but as long as I’m in my car anyway, I’ll opt for the longer trip to the library branch.

  77. Renda
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 20:20:31

    Well, my library only allows two books to be checked out digitally and those are audio only. You must “keep” them for whatever time period you opt for, one, two or three weeks. No turning in early, no renewing.
    Tuesday I sent my $15 to the Free Library of Philadelphia so I could read books instead of listen and get an unheard of ten books.
    So, of course, this information comes out on Thursday. Oh, well. I am happy FLP has my money. I am interested to see how long it takes me to “get” books, though, if these waiting periods are so long.
    DH is a college professor for a state school. I may have to start availing myself of the interlibrary lending through his work.

  78. HarperCollins puts a cap on e-book library loans - Loss of Privacy
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 21:12:12

    […] houses continue to treat patrons like this, they should not be surprised when they have completely alienated everyone who ever thought of checking out or purchasing an e-book. They are, essentially, pushing […]

  79. Jane
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 21:17:37

    @jennIRL You are right. I should have clarified my post to say mass market books. As Ridley pointed out, we are largely a romance reading (mass market buying) crowd and Agency pricing has meant an effective increase in prices.

    And actually, Agency Pricing skirts the issue of illegality. Would love to see someone (would have to be a retailer) challenge it in court. I am hopeful that the current bill making its way through the system that would be a Congressional overturning of the Leegin decision will put paid to Agency Pricing but Apple might do it for us.

  80. rebyj
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 23:56:39

    I’d pay 4.99 a month to read unlimited kindle books. One book at a time is all I read anyway. Of course I sometimes read 4 a day (mass market size) Sounds like a deal to me.

    Readers might buy more new if all the bookstores weren’t closing,leaving grocery stores and walmart as the only retail options.

    Our libraries are the only place in some areas to find an assortment of new books. Paper or digital. And darn it, branches and branches of libraries are being closed or hours severely limited all over the country.

    Its all a big hot mess where the reader suffers and future readers (our kids) suffer more. But hey they can always watch a netflix movie or play a video game. Literacy isn’t important! Greed is! (Sarcasm)

  81. De
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 00:11:01

    @ME:

    I look at stats like that when I’m doing purchasing for my library. We’ve got some things early books from Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, John Grisham and that level that have been checked out over 100 times. That’s for a specific copy of the book. Most books don’t get that high, but that’s because they’re not as popular.

  82. MaryK
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 00:26:57

    @Robin: No kidding. I have this strong urge to go spend a ton of money at a UBS. Even better? I’m going to make it a point to go to the two huge semi-annual library benefit sales happening in my locale in March.

    “Deep down, I think publishers (and some authors) hate libraries and used bookstores. Also swapping sites.”

    I don’t think it’s very deep at all.

  83. SAO
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 02:02:42

    I don’t think I’ve ever bought a fiction book that wasn’t from an author that I had first read in a library or a used book store.

    The library network also does e-books. I can check out 3 e-books, but the waiting lists are long, long, long. My average wait is 2 months and I don’t put myself on the wait lists that are over 10. Some of the waiting lists have 30 readers waiting. I can only be on 3 wait lists at a time, meaning my library e-book reading is limited to a lot fewer books than I’d read on my own.

    My daughter regularly takes out over 100 books/school year from the school library. She’s 13. No way could she buy all the books she reads on her allowance. She will grow up to be someone who buys a lot of books, as I am. By contrast, my husband who was more likely to watch TV as a kid for entertainment never buys fiction and buys (and reads) far fewer books.

  84. Edie
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 04:18:26

    I was dirt poor as a kid, the library kept me sane and fed a voracious reading habit that has only grown to now, where I can afford to buy my own books.

    Even if you look at it from a purely business sense, this seems to be short-term thinking, as well as a bit of a PR fail.

  85. » Will They Ever Get A Clue? Manga Maniac Cafe
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 06:08:35

    […] read a comment over at Dear Author (I love this website!) and I felt my blood pressure rise.  I don't understand why publishers […]

  86. Erg, publishers! « Nisaba Be Praised
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 14:23:28

    […] from Smart Bitches Trashy Books both posted today about the HORRIBLE limitations HarperCollins is hoping to place on libraries who lend e-books. I recommend going and reading either or both of those posts, as they provide a […]

  87. Lynn S.
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 11:01:26

    If anyone has addressed my ramblings already, sorry. I scanned the comments but didn't have time to read in depth.

    As Sarah Mayberry said book lovers are covetous. I buy ebooks first as I am addicted to digital reading but, if I love a book and, especially if it’s a gorgeously covered book, then I want a hard copy as well. I’m particularly partial to trade-size paperbacks.

    I can see the problem with longevity as ebooks have a probable unlimited shelf life; but with most books at the library, after the initial fervor and waiting list is over, they are not checked out as often. I would think that at the five to seven year point even wildly popular titles sit on the shelves for months at a time before being borrowed.

    @Brian: In your first comment were you saying that libraries might actually pay a higher price than list for digital books? And then the business about wanting a cut. The behemoths of publishing appear to have unlearned or removed their civic and charitable teachings at some point.

  88. ami
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 12:35:19

    Same here as a library reader! I’ve found many author that I now buy because when I was younger I practically live at the library. There was no way my family could afford to buy the amount of books I would chug through and the library was paid using our tax dollars so I made good use of it. As for the Overdrive thing, I’ve tried it once and it was really weird. I forgot that I had checked the e-book out, and then they charged for overdue fees for not returning it. Doesn’t it expire automatically? Oh well…

  89. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 12:59:25

    @Lynn S.:

    The behemoths of publishing appear to have unlearned or removed their civic and charitable teachings at some point.

    It’s not that. It’s that they don’t understand Business 101:

    1. Know your customer.

    2. Keep her happy.

  90. The Publisher of Tolkien Has Taken a Business Lesson from Sauron | The Digital Reader
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 14:23:33

    […] Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagemathc with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better (Dear Author) […]

  91. Author On Vacation
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 17:25:52

    [blockquote]Today news has come out that HarperCollins will now institute library lending caps. A library is only allowed to lend a book 26 times for 2 weeks each before that license to access that book “expires” and then the library must purchase a new license. Essentially that is like making the library buy a NEW print copy of the book once a year.[/blockquote]

    This is a disgrace.

  92. MaryK
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 20:04:34

    @Lynn S.: “I can see the problem with longevity as ebooks have a probable unlimited shelf life”

    Not really, IMO. Ebook formats become obsolete fairly quickly. For instance, didn’t one of the ADE software updates kill off ebooks that were dependent on earlier ADE versions? Even without a lending cap, libraries are going to have the same trouble keeping access to their ebooks as consumers do with their personal ebooks. Consumers, at least, can stip their ebooks.

    I’d be interested to hear from librarians about how format changes have affected their ecollections. Is it possible that library versions are more stable or swapped out by the publisher for an updated format?

  93. Brian
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 22:11:16

    For instance, didn't one of the ADE software updates kill off ebooks that were dependent on earlier ADE versions?

    When ADE 1.7.2 came out it discontinued support for Content Server 3 (this is the software that applies the DRM basically). When Content Server 4 came out there was a way to migrate your CS3 content to the newer DRM, but not everyone got the word so yes some folks lost books because they hadn’t migrated their content and also the retailer they got it from was gone so they couldn’t re-download a copy with the newer DRM. With Overdrive if Adobe were to do this again theoretically everything would be fine as Overdrive would have updated their Content Servers to the new version.

    It’s still a risk of course, but as we move towards one major format the risks are becoming less than they were in the past. ePub3 should be backwards compatible with regular ePub so future readers can access current files.

    Of course Adobe could get out of the DRM business and close down their activation servers so no new devices/software could be activated. That would really screw things up for folks.

    It’s always best not to count on any DRM provider (or retailer) to be around forever of course. It’s up to the libraries to decide what risk they’re willing to take.

  94. Brian
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 22:14:59

    As for the Overdrive thing, I've tried it once and it was really weird. I forgot that I had checked the e-book out, and then they charged for overdue fees for not returning it. Doesn't it expire automatically?

    That’s really strange. Yes, both Adobe Adept DRM and Mobipocket DRM have a “feature” where books expire after a set time. So does the DRM on WMA audiobooks. A “late fee” seems very strange indeed.

  95. Man of la Book
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:47:55

    @MaryK: “Ebook formats become obsolete fairly quickly.”

    That was when everyone were trying to push their formats. Lately (several years) ePub format has become the standard for eBooks. Even Amazon will sooner or later will have to incorporate that into the Kindle (there are already hacks available to export ePub files into Kindle format).

  96. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:52:24

    @Man of la Book: Actually disagree with this statement. BN holds about 25% of the market and Amazon over 50%. There is no need for Amazon to adopt a format when it holds a majority market share. In fact, with HC limiting ebooks, Macmillan & S&S not participating at all, the devices that offer epub look less attractive and actually will likely push more people to buying the Kindle.

  97. Man of la Book
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:02:45

    @Jane: This is the way I see it:

    Companies have to supply what the consumers want to buy, not what the company wants to sell. Kindle format is available only from Amazon while the ePub format is available in many stores and public libraries.

    Who will come on top will remain to be seen but if any of the recent history of companies not providing what consumers want to buy (the music industry is perhaps the classic example) Amazon will have to adapt or lose.

    Of course we’ll have to wait and see – for all we know the winning format has not yet been invented.

  98. Milena
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:02:50

    @Jane: Not in Europe, I think… at least not for a while yet. While e-readers are spreading, Kindles are still way behind over here. Granted, that may not have any major influence on Amazon’s policies, since we’re already treated as second-class customers in their digital domain.

  99. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:06:36

    @Man of la Book There is no overriding consumer demand for a unified format. This is because the majority of consumers don’t even know that formats can make a difference.

  100. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:07:13

    @Milena This is true. I know that Kobo and Sony have made inroads overseas.

  101. Man of la Book
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:13:31

    @Jane: That’s true, there is no unifying demand – yet!

    However consumers are getting smarter, anyone who asks me about an eReader I always recommend one that can read ePubs and, to keep in context with this post, the publishers are making it very expensive to buy eBooks with absolutely no reason except greed which only forces consumers to get the products they want through other means (libraries, borrowing etc.).

    I’m not a betting man, but if I had to bet I’d pick the ePub format any day.

  102. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:17:43

    @Man of la Book If books aren’t in libraries then there is no need for a reader to buy an epub compatible reader. Amazon has a greater scope of selection, better customer service, easier ways to purchase, and better pricing. The ePub advantage is illusory without library access.

  103. Man of la Book
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:25:04

    @Jane: Not true. If you buy a Kindle you are forced to purchase your eBook from Amazon, while an eReader that supports ePub you can purchase books from many other retailers.

    I have a nook, B&N’s customer service is fantastic and I think that there are several advantages of the device (besides ePub) over the Kindle.

    I have also been able to get any book I want on my nook in ePub format. I’m sure there are a few but if the publisher doesn’t want me to purchase and read their book…I won’t and I think most readers are with me.

    Here is an article from Forbes you might be interested in: http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/22/kindle-oreilly-ebooks-technology-breakthroughs_oreilly.html

    “Unless Amazon embraces open standards, the Kindle’s lead will become a very short story.”

  104. Brian
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:14:55

    @Jane: Not true. If you buy a Kindle you are forced to purchase your eBook from Amazon, while an eReader that supports ePub you can purchase books from many other retailers.

    Not true. A Kindle owner can buy from anyplace that sells DRM free Mobi/prc titles such as Webscriptions, Fictionwise (multiformat titles), Smashwords and many many pubs that are digital only or digital first.

    It’s only true with books from the big pubs that use DRM on everything and for those so what. Sure you can buy an ePub book from those big pubs at more places, but since the price if fixed on most of them what difference does it make? Random House and Harlequin are the only big pubs not using Agency pricing so maybe having a choice in vendors would mean more here except at least for now Amazon is competitive with others. I’ll admit using a Kobo coupon to get $1 off some RH or HQN titles is nice, but since Kobo’s selection isn’t as good and their CS sucks it’s not a huge deal.

    I have a nook, B&N's customer service is fantastic and I think that there are several advantages of the device (besides ePub) over the Kindle.

    One of the few times I’ve seen a good comment about B&N’s CS. The nook is a nice device, but several advantages over the Kindle? I wonder what they would be. Most of these devices are pretty on par with each other IMO.

  105. Man of la Book
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:24:48

    @Brian: Really? I rarely heard anything bad about B&N CS.

    Anyway, I chose the nook because of the expandable memory (as an IT guy that was a biggie for me), the fact that my local library lends ePubs, book lending (that has been changed), the price at the time (changed), replaceable battery, page numbers (might be silly but for me it was a biggie).

    The Kindle did up the nook on The size, weight, battery life, and standard memory but those weren’t as important to me as the points above.

    Bottom line of course is personal preference.

  106. Brian
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:35:53

    Really? I rarely heard anything bad about B&N CS.

    I’ve just read so many bad accounts on sites like MobileRead and Sarah’s post on SBTB (and some of the comments) http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/customer-service-is-a-ruthless-business/ although I’ve never had call to need B&N CS myself. Now Kobo’s CS I’ve had plenty of experience with and they plain suck IMO. Of course I’m sure there are plenty of bad CS stories about Amazon too, I just almost never see any.

    Bottom line of course is personal preference.

    It really is and there are plenty of great devices out there. I’ve passed on plenty just because I didn’t like the way they looks or “felt”. Different features will mean more/less to the individual which is why I’m glad there are so many good choices out there.

  107. Brian
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 11:48:36

    Just saw this mentioned over at TeleRead…
    http://www.boycottharpercollins.com/

  108. Jennifer
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 18:42:46

    A facebook group has been created: HarperCollins Facebook Boycott

  109. Brian
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 19:10:16

    I see Random House has joined the Agency cartel now. It would be nice if we’d get some good ebook news for once.

  110. The Future of the Publishing Industry (or why terms of service are so important): HarperCollins Part Two « The Learned Fangirl
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 21:59:33

    […] their supporters are understandably upset, with a variety of posts on BoingBoing, Librarian By Day, Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Literary Sluts, TechDirt, and many […]

  111. Ellen
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:17:58

    Great post. It’s sort of painful to sit by and watch publishers make decisions like this; I get that they are struggling with how to adapt to the world of e-books, but I’m sure there are ways they could handle the changing marketplace that wouldn’t alienate as many readers. Frankly, the publishers I admire are the ones like Small Beer Press that publish their books digitally, but only in formats that don’t restrict lending. They also make some of the older books in their catalog available for free. That sort of open attitude and willingness to give readers the same rights to lend they would have with a hard copy book leave me more inclined to buy books from them in the future, and I think it’s an attitude more publishers should imitate.

  112. Limecello
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:33:11

    @Jane: Dunno if someone has said this – don’t think so… but I believe it depends on the book/file type. I know epub and pdf books can be returned early, but mobi books *can’t* be. [Well, ok, I’m 99.999% sure of that.]

  113. Meanland: In the future, they’ll be called 'book deletings’ « Overland literary journal
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 22:42:34

    […] well as this, OverDrive slipped in, publishers want to examine ‘library patron data to see if the library is actually observing territorial and geographic […]

  114. HarperCollins’ digital lending cap sparks lively discussion – O’Reilly Radar | Write Your Own E-book
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 17:01:50

    […] posted at Librarian by Day, and commentary by Jane Litte at Dear Author and Martyn Daniels at Brave New […]

  115. James
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 17:56:35

    >how many times a popular print
    >book is lent out before it falls
    >apart and the library has to
    >re-purchase the book. Can anyone
    >answer that?

    It varies from book to book, depending on the quality of the binding.

    When it comes to hardbacks, though, many can easily circulate 100 or more times.

    As others have said, HarperCollins and Macmillan obviously have NO idea of how ebook lending works, or even how the ebook market works.

  116. carly
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 09:41:00

    What about people who check out books for an hour, realize it’s not what they’re interested in, and return it. Is that really worth one of those “26” checkouts?

  117. Barbara Fister
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:45:35

    Great post, and great discussion. Just a couple of things to add…

    Libraries actually pay a much higher than retail price for e-books through Overdrive (as well as thousands of dollars to set up the system). They usually cost more than a hardcover book. And with that you get no ownership rights and caps.

    It’s astonishing that the CEO of Macmillan sets policy without knowing that libraries do not loan e-books to people outside their communities. Wouldn’t you ask a few questions before you shut down a potential revenue stream? Evidently not.

    It’s typical that the publisher never even spoke to libraries about this change. It was announced by Overdrive and the publisher was not specified. It took a Library Journal reporter to find out that HC was behind it. That bespeaks a) cowardice and b) lack of interest in readers – you just secretly change the deal with a vendor and never even mention it to the people who are buying the books.

    And these are the people who have a large piece of the future of books and reading in their hands…

  118. Self Published Success Story - Man of la Book
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 06:26:45

    […] her fans happily buy more and more.  She isn’t trying to compete with the big guys who can alienate more readers, quite the opposite – Ms. Hocking sells the products her customers want to buy. Innovative? […]

  119. Mark
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 10:55:16

    As an academic, I am appalled by this mentality from MacMillan. In my doctoral studies, the library saved my tail and I determined which works in my research I wanted in my personal collection (electronic if available). The problem withies market publishers is they are not interested in the dissemination of information but in profiting off of the monopolization of information (I say this as a die hard capitalist). The problem lies with copyright law that allows rights to belong to an entity other than a human being–which permits them to keep it forever out of the public domain.. My requirement in anything I might seek to have published is that I keep the rights. This is one great thing about academic publishers as the scholar almost always keeps the rights. I have acquired many works directly from the author in PDF form since they possess the rights (some of them in prepub).

    Until copyright law changes to reflect the true owner of the intellectual property, we will perpetually be faced with this problem.

%d bloggers like this: