As some of you may know, HarperCollins recently announced something that could spell trouble for the already struggling libraries around the country. Basically, the licenses for their e-books purchased for library collections will expire after 26 check-outs.
Yep, you read that right. After 26 people read a particular e-book, that's it for that one. Kaput. Finito. The library will have to repurchase the digital rights for each book that expires, every time it expires.
What does this mean for the libraries who are just starting to really embrace this new technology? For one thing, it's certainly going to be hard to keep up a good, well-stocked selection of e-books, which is already a difficult thing to do; there is no discounted rate for e-books yet, and so libraries are paying full price for them. Budgets are already strained. When funding gets tight, library budgets are among the first to get cut. It's going to be hard to keep libraries relevant in an era when technology is starting to take over if it's too expensive to take part in the latest reading technology developments.
HarperCollins' reasoning is that physical books eventually have to get replaced. But really? Only 26 check-outs? That amounts to about one year, according to the Library Journal article I linked to up at the top. I don't know about the books in your library, but most of our books are well over one year old. We have books that are decades old and have probably been checked out hundreds of times.
The only good news about this is other publishers who do not currently sell digital rights to libraries might consider this alternative. Two of the "big six" of the publishing houses, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, are two of those that don't let libraries buy their e-books (again, I'm paraphrasing Library Journal here).
So what do you think? Is this a terrible, terrible problem, or do you disagree with me and think it's a good thing? Will this be a bad or good thing for libraries in the long run, and do you think HarperCollins will continue in this line or ease up?