Where Do Publishers Expect Us to Find the Funds?

February 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm (HCOD, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I just received a letter from Overdrive explaining all the efforts they have made to offer us, public libraries, a better service. This is a true statement.  They developed an app for Apple and Android users.  They added over 180,000 new titles.  They are also planning many upgrades and enhancements in the coming year.  However, in the same letter it was also mentioned that there are going to be some major changes to their borrowing platform based on the concerns and limitations being set by publishers.  Basically, within the one user-one, one-title platform, there will be a cap on the amount of times an eBook can circulate before libraries are forced to buy another copy.  This begs the question:  How many times will an eBook be borrowed before a library is forced to purchase another copy?  10 times?  50 times?  100 times?  I understand part of the logistics behind the cap.  EBooks never have to be replaced.  Patrons will never lose them or forget to bring them back. They require no maintenance like a regular, tangible books would eventually require.  Currently, once an eBook is purchased it will always be part of the library’s catalog.

The whole issue has my wheels turning and I am really fired up about this.  On the blog, Read, Write, Web: This Library E-Book Will Self-Destruct After 26 Checkouts, the recent post states the HarperCollins is planning the cap being a 26 rotation!!! What!! We have books that go out for far longer, sometimes 80 times, before they need maintenance or a replacement copy. This is an unfair and unjust model! In fact, it proposes that it is more reasonable for a public library to purchase a hardcover book, because libraries would get more circulation out of their purchases without the caps on how many times they are allowed to let a book go out.

In a time where most libraries are faced with both layoffs and budget cuts, how do publishers feel this is a sustainable purchasing model?  They want us to buy the content, but restrict access to it. Basically, publishers do not want to support public libraries circulating their e-content.  They may say that they do, but as in so may other instances in life, actions speak louder than words.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not blame Overdrive at all.  In fact, they are more of the go-between that is forced to deliver libraries the bad news.  This is strictly an issue with publishing houses and how they want us to repeatedly repurchase the same title over and over. So I am left asking: Where do publishers expect us to find the funds to fuel and ridiculous and unsustainable purchasing model?  If you know the answer, please clue me in.

Melissa Brisbin



  1. Cyber-Trout said,

    I believe publishers are still fighting ebooks in general. The publishers have lost so much money and royalties from epub books and they are trying desperately to avoid change. This issue also has an effect on the bottom line of epubs.

  2. Karen Syed said,

    The problem is that this is almost only the large corporate publishers. I am a publisher. We are not as big as HarperCollins, but I think our books are just as good if not better.

    We don’t want to limit the usuage of eBooks to this degree. I can’t help but wonder, though if there isn’t some kind of compromise. For example, our eBooks sell for $2.99. Now, when we sell to a distributor we have to pay a discount (usually 50%). This means that the author splits $1.50 with us. So $.75 cents for unlimited loans? Seems a little unfair to the author, and the publisher. HOWEVER.

    How many times does a print book get checked out before it has to be replaced? I have no clue on this, so I’ll guess 1000? So if someone like ALA came up with the average times a print book is checked out and makes that the standard for how many times an eBook could be checked out before renewal with publisher.

    It certainly isn’t a perfect solution, but it seems a little more in line with how it works with Print books and it offers authors and publishers a little bit more than $.75 for 10,000 checkouts.

    as for HarperCollins and this ridiculous 26 times. Why would the libraries even bother to purchase their books now, when you know you can get other books for less, for longer?

    Just thinking out loud here.

    And not all publishers are evil like HC. LOL

    Karen Syed

    • melissabrisbin said,

      Karen–I completely agree with your points. I think ALA should be involved in finding a reasonable average number for the circulation for books. When I first received the letter I was expecting 80-100 times, which is I find to be a decent rotation for a book before it has to replaced. HC, to me, sounds as if they do not want libraries to circulate their electronic materials. We are better off just purchasing titles in print. Thank you for your input.

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