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HarperCollins to libraries: What?

A report on MobyLives Monday noted that HarperCollins had announced it was limited the circulation of its ebooks by libraries to 26 “circulations,” and that already-under-fire-from-every-fucking-direction librarians were not too happy about this. As a result, the next day a group of librarians announced a boycott of HarperCollins, centralized at this website. As the site explains, “Until this policy is revoked, join us by not buying any new books or ebooks published by HarperCollins or any of its imprints.” What’s more, it asks patrons and librarians to “support your local library if it chooses to participate in the boycott and write a letter to HarperCollins explaining your actions.” When will the boycott end? “… as soon as HarperCollins agrees not to limit the number of times a library can loan each ebook.”

Yesterday HarperCollins issued an “open letter” to librarians saying that, well, it wasn’t going to back down. According to the statement,

We spent many months examining the issues before making this change. We talked to agents and distributors, had discussions with librarians, and participated in the Library Journal e-book Summit and other conferences. Twenty-six circulations can provide a year of availability for titles with the highest demand, and much longer for other titles and core backlist. If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point. Our hope is to make the cost per circulation for e-books less than that of the corresponding physical book. In fact, the digital list price is generally 20% lower than the print version, and sold to distributors at a discount.

We invite libraries and library distributors to partner with us as we move forward with these new policies.

A report at the Christian Science Monitor, meanwhile, noted that a few librarians “said some cap wasn’t unreasonable,” just that “a cap of 26 seemed arbitrarily low, that the books should be discounted if their use was so severely limited, and that librarians, not corporations, should decide when to weed the collection.”

And then there’s the fact that MacMillan and Simon & Schuster don’t sell ebooks to libraries at all ….


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