Ebooks have over the past few years really increased in popularity mostly due to the introduction of several high quality eReaders like the Nook, Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad just to name a few. On a personal note, I purchased a Nook from Barnes and Noble and absolutely love it. One of the reasons I chose was because it was a supported device on Overdrive. Also, at the time Barnes & Noble was the only service that provided a LendMe option. Currently, if the book is on loan then you can’t read it during the loan period. Some libraries have even gotten in the e-book game but a recent decision by HaperCollins regarding e-book lending permissions for libraries has caused some uproar. (See the article from USAToday.)
Many librarians want to boycott Haper Collins publications but is that really the answer to the problem? I don’t think so. Let’s look at this logically. If a library buys a printed book for say $30;that book is then added to their collection and lent potentially hundreds of times. Now, this represents revenue that the publisher will never see because people borrowed the book instead of buying it themselves. Now, we come to ebooks, which have a much lower cost per unit but it is still the same material, just in digital form. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not privy to the logistics of purchasing print books via vendors or ebooks through companies like Overdrive. However, it seems that what HarperCollins is doing seems to be in their estimation a fair solution.
HarperCollins spoke out in response to the uproar from librarians as quoted in this article Well Done Harper Collins: Librarians must change old thinking. The author, Martin Taylor, states that HarperCollins amended its terms to limit a purchase to 26 loans. For an average 2-week lending term, libraries would get a full year of lending for about US$10-20, based on typical ebook prices—that’s about 40-80 cents a loan. This actually seems to be a reasonable amendment if you think about in the big picture. Taylor also states, and I agree, that rightsholders also have a stake in e-book lending policies from publishers. Like it or not, the publishing world is changing, publishers and libraries should be working together and not against each other. It has been shown that library lending of e-book does positively impact book sales but mostly print. What about the digital sales? Libraries need to come up with new methods of providing digital content because the current model will not stand up in the future. As a future librarian, this is a concern of mine and I am not quite sure how the issue will be solved but I do know that alienating publishers through boycotts is not the answer.