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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 self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


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