The most recent battle in the e-book wars manifested as Harper Collins imposing a 26-circulation limit on Overdrive, the primary vendor of library e-books. But this is just the latest in a number of moves that attempts to treat digital and physical books as equals. But if digital and physical books were essentially the same, would anybody care? The power of digital books rests in the following:
- Instant Access
- Accessible from Anywhere
- Search, Annotation, Hyperlinking
The first item is perhaps the most powerful and alluring. Nobody should have to wait in line for an e-book, as is currently the norm. This system doesn’t benefit users, publishers or authors. So how can we allow e-book lending on such a massive scale while still honoring content creators? Could libraries pay authors and publishers under a pay-per-access model? Under that or a similar model, how would DRM be handled? Is DRM necessary under such a model?
What Harper Collins is doing in limiting digital circulations is raising prices, pure and simple. There are no definitive statistics that say physical books poop out after 26 circulations. And if Harper Collins wants to raise prices, why not do it in a way that makes sense and builds relationships with libraries. Also, why is it currently not possible to return a digital book before the 2-3 week lending period often observed by libraries? If someone borrows an e-book and finishes it in 2 days, that person should be able to easily “return” the e-book to the library. Why are digital solutions for universities and other academic institutions still nonexistent? Amazon just added page numbers.
There are creative solutions to dealing with the growth of e-books. Very few of them revolve around the publishing world we’ve known for centuries. Both publishers and libraries should stop looking to the past for justifications as to why things should stay the way they are. The future is now.
There’s a ton to read on this topic right now. The articles below are all good places to start and will easily lead you further down the rabbit hole. Twitter users can follow these proceedings with the hashtag #hcod.
- HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations (libraryjournal.com)
- HarperCollins to libraries: we will nuke your ebooks after 26 checkouts (boingboing.net)
- Library eBook Revolution, Begin (librarianinblack.net)