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March 1, 2011


Martha Hardy

Here's a little update for you: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-harpercollins-limited-checkouts-on-ebooks-is-wrong-for-libraries#signatures. 63,870 signatures and counting.

Monica Colson

The fact that Harper Collins even has a blog called Library Love Fest is such a sham. Who do you think you are Pakistan? You are either with us or against us, plain and simple. You cannot be on both sides. This is not a complicated issue. Well unlike Pakistan who "was last year's honored recipient of the United States $3.2 billion dollar Be Our Friend Please scholarship", Harper Collins will not be the recipient of one penny of my money, my library's money, and any one else I can influence to spend their $ elsewhere.


If a consumer purchases an audiobook through Audible.com, a branch off of Amazon.com, they are allowed multiple downloads and format changes for one price, plus online library storage through the website. An audiobook may not have the extensive material costs of physical publishing, but it still requires a paid narrator. Neither of these are costs for an e-book.

HC: It's time to catch up with the technology and information freedom that consumers are demanding. If you can't control the horse, then get out of the race.

Martha Hardy

Good article in the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/03/public-libraries-take-on-e-books/73163/).


I hope librarians don't just boycott your ebooks, but they boycott your pbooks and hardcovers as well. You're too greedy.


I understand you're claiming that a printed book's life span is approximately 26 checkouts? I'm curious... did rabid monkeys give you this information while you were tripping on acid? Or did you somehow figure 26 was a nice round number? Any librarian with half a brain will tell you that printed books last FAR longer than 26 checkouts!

Your reasoning behind this change is more see-through than an empty window frame. You were perfectly fine with ebook circulation when it wasn't popular enough to register on your dollar sign radar. Now that there is technology pushing ebook features, ebook popularity is sky-rocketing, and you simply want a bigger piece of the now more bountiful pie.

Bureaucratic greed like this infuriates me. I won't boycott your books simply because it's unfair to the many authors you publish. However, I think I would do a reaaaally big Snoopy dance if your "company" were run into the ground, thereby sending the authors to more business savvy publishing companies.

Seriously, give your heads a shake, if you think you're fooling everyone with your BS about finding a balance. It's obvious the only "balance" you're interested in is the one on your profit accounts at the bank.


I'm on the band-wagon. I now refuse to purchase ANY Harper Collins books or ebooks. I can't stand people or companies that master in GREED! You are making a bad decision. It's bad enough we have to put up with the increases in prices in ebooks, now this. Good luck with that Harper Collins! I hope it, um, pays off! lol


Um... bad business decision. Companies that increase prices in hard times, as opposed to increasing volume/services, generally suffer pretty badly for their decision.

I've got the solution. check out http://whatyoualreadyknow.blogspot.com for the answer to your problem. "What problem," you ask. The problem that's errupting all over your e-book space.


How about doing something really radical? How about setting up pricing and access so that multiple readers can access your ebook publications at one time. (This one ebook one reader at a time business is a real drag to explain, over and over again, to digital natives.)

Just think, instead of being reactionary (as the music companies were to their great detriment) be PRO-active.

John Lang

Your policy will hurt your company in the end. 20th century thinking will not garner success.


Your policy is about the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Like everyone else has said, regular books don't disappear after they've been checked out 26 times. (26 times??)

Hope your money grubbing pays off in the end when you've got no libraries wanting your product.



Your new policy limiting libraries to lending e-books 26 times is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. It is a pure money grab against organizations which have minimal funding and against people with limited resources. Libraries routinely loan books many times beyond 26 times.

I am starting a local campaign to boycott all publications by your company, both paper and e-books.

Please change your policy ASAP.


I really wonder how HC will feel when people stop buying their books all together. This policy is unfair to libraries and angers many readers. It's bad enough that a person that buys an ebook cannot loan it like a regular paperback, now libraries must re-buy them after 26 people borrow it? I know of many individuals with and without e-readers that are going to boycott this company. As another person noted, the answer will come at the end of HC's fiscal year. Anger too many libraries and readers, and your business will suffer in the end, while the company that looks to the future of e-reading fairly will profit.


Here’s the thing: libraries are in a unique position to promote and support reading and publishers should want to be our friends, not try to cut us off at the legs. That approach just doesn’t make any sense and it smacks too much of out-and-out greed. Bestselling author Neil Gaiman has made the point that if anything, sharing leads to more buying, not less.

Publishers would be wise to remember the symbiotic relationship they’ve always shared with libraries who act as promoters and advertisers. Libraries get people hooked on books, and eBooks are going to help libraries do that even more. Why then are publishers feeling the need to punish an ally like the public library, or the consumer for that matter?


stick to your guns with this boycott, people.

if plummeting sales is their main concern, then this oughta give 'em a run for their pocketbooks!


there are MANY free eBooks out there too, people. and i'll just bet you that "licensing" THEM for public consumption isn't quite the hassle that it is with HarperCollins...

sure, you won't get the "Big Names", but in the end, the quality is about the same.


when much of the charge for books is the cost to print, you would think they could cut us a break when all THEY have to do is COPY a FILE!

i could do THAT for free!


what HarperCollins is doing is tantamount to selling Libraries physical books, limiting their use, and then taking them back after a year.

i don't know of ANY Library that would agree to that.


1. What does it mean that e-books do not degrade? Hard drives crash (I have seen it first hand). Flash memory has very limited life span (my memory sticks last at best two years, and I am not using them one hundred times a day). If you take into account that mostly you do not buy an 'e-book', but you buy a right to use on a single reader (no right to transfer or back it up).
2. I am surprised that nobady has seen this open lie in a text, when it is written that HC cares that authors get their fair share. Do not forget that money paid to the author is on the expense side of the balance sheet.
3. What HC wats to achieve in the long term by reducing exposure of their product and ultimately reducing a (avid) reader base is byond me...

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

There is no cost/benefit ratio to a library when it comes to ordering eBooks with a license that expires after 26 uses. You're shooting yourself in the foot in thinking that any library, with a smaller and smaller budget, will go along with this. Better for them to buy a hardcover that will last much longer than 26 uses. Instead of fostering a love of reading, you are greedily putting up obstacles to it. In the long range, this short-term grab at cash can be a death knoll for the publishing industry in general, and Harper in particular.

David Brollier

I think we should allow HC to charge for the reselling of books IF, and ONLY IF, they begin to pay libraries for all that free advertising we have been doing for them.
$100 a month for each month a HC title remains on our shelves.
$200 added if the book is used for an Adult Read or book club through the library.
$500 added if the author holds a book signing or book reading in the library.
$150 added when book is requested by another library in the system (for each time it is requested)
$10 added for each local checkout.
I think if Harper Collins realizes the costs they are saving by using libraries for advertising they may rethink their new policy.


What about Simon & Schuster and Macmillan who won't lend to libraries in ebook format at all? They are the really, really bad guys.


"Library Love Fest"? As a librarian, I am completely insulted by these moneygrubbing tactics when considering how MUCH we were already getting charged (upwards of $21) for an e-item that it cost HarperCollins next to nothing in raw materials to produce. No ink, no trees. And our actual physical copies last a LOT longer than 26 checkouts, even paperbacks.

So let's theoretically say that HC really doesn't give a damn about libraries (which is not such a stretch if this movement is any indication). Fine, fair enough...but lack of HC e-books in library consortia is going to cost HC a ton in visibility and marketing alone. In fact, I have bought a number of e-books now for personal use after seeing them in the library catalog and realizing it might be a month before they got around to me. I would never have known they existed without that visibility, and thus would never have bought them.

Good job shooting yourselves in the foot, HarperCollins. We have already decided to boycott your books at our library and will make no bones about letting all our patrons know that you care about nothing but the almighty dollar.


And if I were the director of a library, I wouldn't purchase another Harper Collins ebook..after the 26 are used, the book sits in your collection, no one can check it out, but it doesn't disappear. So next year (or month, more likely) the book needs to purchased again, along with the next new book, and so forth. Greedy. Pathetic. This will only hurt libraries, authors, and eventually Harper Collins. Fix it while you still have the chance.

Gwen MacDonald

Thanks for the invite to partner but I must decline. Budget cuts are again impacting discretionary spending and in a library, especially ones located in communities where residents are already reeling from business closures or tough times, that spending means cuts to staff and material purchases. Not that HC is responsible for this situation but, since we are being asked to partner, I would have thought the opportunity to be the supplier we use to provide our users with books, in many different formats, would be encouraged. My mistake. Times are changing and the way we view purchasing and providing materials is also and, as we have in the past, librarians will use new and emerging technologies to do this.... we’ll just make sure we partner with businesses that understand and support our role in the community.


HarperCollins can choose to have a 26 loan limit on it's Ebooks, and I can choose not to give HarperCollins a cent from my EBook budget.

They made a financial decision, and so did I.

C Gravelle

Harper Collins is indicating by this new policy their disregard for what libraries do FOR the publishing industry. It is not a case of "allowing" libraries access to their products as a "favor". It is just the opposite -- a sound business practice. When libraries purchase a book from a publisher, they are not undermining other sales of that book. They are making that title, and its author, visible to hundreds of readers who would not otherwise read it. Libraries help to make authors popular by allowing people to experience their works. The visibility a library gives an author is valuable to that author and publisher. If you remove titles from public access through libraries, you effectively limit an author's reach to his/her potential readers. Is this what HC wants to do? In the short-term, maybe they'll make a little more money, but in the long-term, their authors will fail to meet the audience who read through a library. Very foolish.


Dear Librarians:
Continue to buy dead-tree books because they will last a lot longer, and you own the content you're purchasing. Eventually publishers will wake up from their land of unicorns and rainbows where people will pay them to "rent" a book and then pay them again to "rent" the same content over and over, but it will take some time.

Yours Truly,
The Sane Readers Left on the Planet

Martha H



So we will circulate it for a year, and then what? We don't have the budgets anymore to keep repurchasing your content. Digital content is becoming demanded more and more as you point out in this blog post. Obviously we are looking to purchase more e-content. So why would we look to re-purchase the same titles over and over again? You're shooting yourself in the foot. Make the Librarians angry, HarperCollins and you'll wake the giant. It's not just the book stores that are your allies.

Coach Sneakers

You may believe these four proverbs:
Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.
Life is a leaf of paper white, thereon each of us may write his word or two.
On earth there is nothing great but man; in the man there is nothing great but mind.
Everything ought to be beautiful in a human being: face, and dress, and soul, and ideas.


This policy will place even more limiting budget constraints on libraries that are already stretched to the max. If the actual books in my library fell apart after 26 circulations, we would have very few books in our libraries. Wake up and look at this ridiculous policy.
Sound like money grabbing to me!

Coach Purses

Awesome information. Thank you for posting and keep up the good work. I'll be following your blog closely from now on! :-)

K Mansker

You're effectively cutting exposure of your products to your target audience. If you make it difficult for a librarian to put a title in front of patrons, you cut off a whole swath of book lovers who would otherwise be wandering into a bookstore (or through Amazon.com) and saying, "I borrowed this great book a couple of months ago and I've just got to have it..."


Much as this saddens me, we need to face economic reality. Libraries were created based on the economics of print publication and the social contract of the first sale doctrine that allowed libraries to loan books. As eBooks grow and replace print, the economics change and publishers have both new opportunities and new threats.

A publisher will make more money by keeping the library/loan price relatively high and limiting the number of available eCopies - which pushes people to buy the book at full price. They will set the per-circ cost of a book to maximize their profits (and especially their short-term profits), not to maintain the library lending model we all grew up with.

Unless Congress passes a law requiring the true sale of ALL eBooks, libraries will have to get used to paying more for books - or possibly be replaced by a publisher or vendor like Amazon or Apple renting you an eBook for $1 for a limited time (even today, Amazon and Apple are renting you all their eBooks, as you cannot sell that purchased ebook to someone else, and in many cases have limitations on giving it away or loaning it to someone).

So if you dislike the HC approach, and what other publishers will likely be doing, your best option is to start lobbying Congress for a law.


This new policy will only lead to more illegally copies going on the web.....

Let's wait for your end year results and see what happens.

Elizabeth Bartholomew

Dear "as a reader and an author" any library worth it's salt would not buy any physical book that wears out after 26 circs. 26 circs is Harper Collins being greedy. I'm tired of being punished for having an ereader. I don't share my ebooks with anyone. I don't copy them; I just download them from the library, read them and return them. The way we receive information is changing. The role of the library is changing. Ereaders and ebooks will be a reality, and publishers need to play nice. I'm not against limits on ebooks, but 26 circs is a slap in the face. Shame on you Harper Collins for being a roadblock and not a visionary.


The arbitrary checkout model is insane, as a publisher surely it's in your best interests to encourage readers and libraries.
Please go back to the drawing board and come up with a better model, I for one am not going to buy any more Harper Collins books until you do


Libraries create readers who buy books. But if the reader never sees the book because it "expired," he or she will never learn to love it and when the next paycheck or allowance comes, will buy another title. Since authors tend to stick with publishers, these readers may never "meet" them at the library and never learn to look for their newest release. The publisher loses, the author loses, the library loses, and the reader loses. What a stupid game!


We are spending about $180,000 on eBooks in the next few months for a large virtual library to serve hundreds of schools. Although I have the greatest admiration for Harper Collins' books, unfortunately we cannot purchase any titles under this check-out policy. I accept the fairness of the one book, one checkout model, but not this. HC, operate a little leaner. You have new expenses, but you are eliminating the need for huge warehouses, shipping expenses, packaging, etc. There is no reason to cut royalties for authors or to institute this policy. Be smart - be fair.

Midwest Librarian

"As an author and publisher, I totally agree with the Harper Collins policy. Physical books wear out. Ebooks don't. There is no reason why the existence of a new format means authors and publisher should earn less for their work and financial investment."

The format saves a lot of money for HC. Odds are good I'm not replacing your physical book, and odds are good that after a certain amount of time nobody wants to read it any more. If you want to limit to a reasonable (reasonable meaning that some of us share a consortium and literally my patrons might never get to read it anyway, so I'm not going to buy it in the first place - lost sales) time like two or three years, then I'm listening. 26 is ridiculous.


Why are so many corporate executives so short sighted?


To the comment about Baen books not being represented in piracy circulation:

They don't need to be, they freely offer a every growing portion of their library as eBooks as download or on a disk (the disks files including 20+ books), with all of their eBooks having a selling price far lower than the print price. They request that you at least make a purchase or buy a one month subscription to receive new stories, but don't require it. Funny thing, its been working for them for years now.

We have hardcover books that have been on the shelves for 10 years, and when they get damaged we repair them. In 10 years the eBook files we have now will probably be obsolete, or if not they is a good chance they'll be corrupted and a new file will be needed to replace it.

Diane Bronson

Re Jim Fitzpatrick's recommendation for a new model -- I like this idea, both as a librarian and a reader, but I can see why publishers and authors wouldn't. Right now, I buy many books for our library -- most nonfiction titles, in fact -- that don't ever reach 26 circs -- yet the publisher and author get their cut just the same. These books don't have the level of "use" (purchase, check-out, listening, reading, whatever you want to label it) that would make per-use sales a cost-effective alternative for a publisher. Yet libraries have been paying the same price for these underused titles as we do for bestsellers. I can imagine how publishers would react if I proposed that I should get a discount/refund based on actual use (non-use) of their books.
Another point-- Mr. Fitzgerald uses the example of a $9.90 ebook charge. Well, I'm not paying $9.90 for the ebooks we buy from Overdrive. For example, if I want to buy "Fire on the Horizon" for our Overdrive Consortium, I'll pay $21.99 -- about 20% below list price for the print item of $27.99, but well ABOVE what it's selling for on Amazon ($15.74 for print and $14.99 for Kindle) or what I'd pay a jobber -- and that's for a book HC had to physically produce & ship, plus allow costs for expected returns.
So why are libraries expected to accept the double whammy of paying a premium price for an electronic file, then being told that that expensive file will expire after relatively short use -- long before I'd have to toss its physical counterpart that cost MUCH more to produce and ship but cost the library much LESS?
What this says to me is that HC would love to keep libraries OUT of the ebook field. And if they make it too expensive for us to buy their ebooks, that's what will happen.
I hope someone does come up with a new model for selling ebooks, possibly along the lines Mr. Fitzgerald has suggested, that will recognize the needs of all parties.


So you're basically saying your hardback books fall apart after just one year of use? It's been a while since I've bought a hardback book, my reading is digital only now, but your production values must be of very, very poor quality these days to be selling books that fall apart so quickly.

Amanda Blau

Requiring libraries to rebuy books after an arbitrary number of circulations is ridiculous. Ultimately, I don't think it's in HarperCollins best interest either.

There are always waiting lists for the newest and hottest books at libraries. Downloading is so easy that it's awfully tempting to just buy the latest book from a favorite author rather than wait. If HarperCollins has books available in the library to hook new readers, I bet this will ultimately work in their favor in terms of sales as the consumer who just can't wait in the library hold list will purchase the second book in that series where he or she checked the first out of the library.

Also, while the digital is cheaper to produce if the publisher feels it is intrinsically worth more than print because it doesn't degrade. Charge more for the book. Think of it as a book with a really good binding and price accordingly. This seems more reasonable than having a purchased book expire on an arbitrary timetable.

Jim Fitzpatrick

A new model needed.
Publishers and librarians really are having a time adjusting to the new digital age. They are thinking in terms of old-fashioned books merely delivered as eBook electrons. I take HarperCollins’ point that a single sale of an e-book in perpetuity does not make economic sense for the publisher and author. I also take the librarians’ viewpoint that the purchase of an old fashioned hardback book could last for many years and far more than 26 loans.
So why not simply charge per loan? If HarperCollins wants a 26 loan limit on a $9.90 eBook, that works out to 38 cents per loan. If, on the other hand, an old-fashioned well-used, in-demand novel by a noted author will survive, say, 75 loans, and cost $25, that is 33 cents per loan. Strike a nice profitable balance for both sides.
But take things another step. If you paid per loan, rather than a single eBook license, you could have many readers checking out the same ebook immediately. So instead of having that single bestselling eBook, at $9.90, loaned 75 times over three years, it could be loaned out 75 times in the first two weeks, to eager readers, at the same cost of $9.90.
Take it another step. If the entire HarperCollins’ catalogue was available to the library, on a per loan basis, then you could radically increase the amount of books available to your borrowers, at no initial outlay to the library, and pay only as they check them out. You may find that an anticipated popular novel, at $9.90 was not that good, word got around, and only a few ever checked it out. It ultimately cost you only $2.31, perhaps, and not $9.90. And what librarian does not know the agony of so many books purchased, at great cost, that are rarely read at all. Remember the recent study showing that one university has spent several million dollars over the past decade for books, some 50% of which have never been checked out!
It's a new world, requiring some new thinking, on both sides.

Heather Booth

(I Mistakenly listed Harry Potter in with the HC books.)

Melissa Boulton

In response to the author and publisher who agrees with the new circulation policy:

Having books available in an ebook format can make MORE money for authors and publishers, not less. Yes, physical books do wear out over time, but they do not dissolve to dust after one year. (And if they do, it say a lot more about poor materials and construction, not use!) Rather, books are sold and re-sold in used bookstores for years, and neither the author or publisher make a penny on those sales.

Because there is no secondary, used-book market for ebooks, every legitimate sale of an ebook brings money in for the publisher and author. Yes, there is more risk for illegal distribution with an ebook than a physical book, but the music industry has shown that when digital content is made easily available (i.e. without DRM) and at a reasonable price, people are more than willing to acquire the content they want legally.

Heather Booth

When I read this news last Friday, I was sitting at the reference desk. So I decided to check to see which HC print books we would have to pull from our shelves if this policy were applied to print as well. These are the circulation numbers for some of the more well known titles at our medium sized public library in the Midwest. These are *item* circulations, so they reflect the number of times a single copy has been checked out:
Kennedy's Profiles in Courage (26 checkouts)
Jones' The Known World (61)
Patchett's Bel Canto (131)
Lobel's Frog and Toad are Friends (169)
Where the Wild Things Are (213)
and every one of the 24 hardcover copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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