Publisher HarperCollins has revised its terms for e-book loans, limiting the number of times an e-book can be licensed for checkout to 26.
News of the revised terms, which will apply only to new titles, was publicised by OverDrive, the main e-book distributor for libraries and was later confirmed in a short statement from HarperCollins:
"HarperCollins is committed to the library channel. We believe this change balances the value libraries get from our titles with the need to protect our authors and ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come."
Explaining its position to LibraryJournal.com HarperCollins said that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at considering factors such as the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies. It can also be seen as a lifetime of one year for a popular e-book title given a lending period of two weeks. This obviously overcomes a real problem publishers face with the economics of library ebooks - they potentially lasts forever: won't wear out, get stolen, or otherwise go missing and so will never need replacement and lead to repeat sales.
Although HarperCollins has aroused the wrath of librarians, its terms are seen as being better than either Macmillan or Simon and Shuster who still don't permit any library circulation of e-books.
The move by HarperCollins, more details of which are expected next week is bound to reinvigorate the debate about digital rights management (DRM) - in terms of both principle and practice.
Ebooks may be a modern format but we seem determined to force current business practices on them and make them behave as much as possible like paper books. Users don't like this approach because to them it is clear that an ebook is quite new and different and doesn't deserve to be treated in this way.
Copy protection and DRM
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