Saturday, March 05, 2011

HarperCollins, Libraries and the 27th Reader

You might have heard about this but just in case you haven't this is a quick summary. As most of you know libraries have e-books that are available to library users. Many libraries use a company called OverDrive to handle the electronic lending of e-books.

The user downloads the book for a period of time. After the loan period has been reached the book is de-activated on the user's computer or reading device. The book is virtually returned so that another patron can check out the book.

Well, publisher HarperCollins wants to change that. They want to put a cap on the number of books a library can lend. For a two week lending period that would be 26 books.

So if you have a popular e-book and readers 1 to 26 have read the book your library would be required to purchase another license to allow person 27 to download the book.

If the library cannot afford to purchase the license or has maxed out the purchasing budget reader #27 is S.O.L; stone out of luck.

This, as you can imagine is not sitting well with libraries and librarians. This is a demonstration of the policy by the number of readers who have read certain physical books. This video by librarians of the Pioneer Library System in Norman, Oklahoma.

There are some who are calling for a ban on purchasing HarperCollins publications in all its permutations. This means a lock down of J.R.R. Tolken, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ursula K. Le Guin, Creatures of Light and Darkness, Anne McCafree and Z is for Zombie.

It is more than the requirement to re-purchase the book.

This does get at the heart of who owns a copy of a book. One book, one patron at a time has been the rule. When the book needed repair the library handled it, not the publisher. When the book could no longer be in service the library withdraws the book from circulation. At that time the library purchased a new book.

Or not. Because it works both ways.

HarperCollins has responded via a letter to Library Journal.

Other folks with opinions and concerns:
If you want to follow the Twitter responses the hashtag is #hcod. For the full details and current news visit Library Journal.

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