Let’s Play Rent-A-Book!

Imagine this, for a sec. What if a publisher … oh, heck – let’s just say HarperCollins … suddenly decided that yes, they were still going to let your library get books from them … but there was suddenly a catch. If too many library customers checked the book out, you’d need to pay more money! In essence, you’d need to actually pay for a single book … more than once.

“Well, David – that’s just silly talk” you might say.

Check this out – Overdrive sent out a Library Partner Update (link via the awesome Librarian by Day blog) to their “OverDrive Library Partners.” Here’s part of what it says:

“To provide you with the best options, we have been required to accept and accommodate new terms for eBook lending as established by certain publishers. Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher [update – it’s HarperCollins, according to Library Journal]  that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached [according to Library Journal, it’s 26 checkouts]. This eBook lending condition will be required of all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher’s titles for library lending (not just OverDrive).”

Then, from Library Journal – HarperCollins said this in a statement: “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.”

So … HarperCollins is giving us a mere 26 checkouts per ebook … to protect its authors from … um … readers. Nice. Translation = we want more money.

But then, it gets even stranger. OverDrive continues:

“In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.”

OK… So … you want to look at them, but not do anything with them? I’m missing something here, I think.

HarperCollins – what changed? We already have your print books in our libraries. To date, they have checked out WAY MORE than your ebooks (I’m sure this will eventually change, but still). But you have never attempted to do this silly rental thing with those books. Or asked us about our card issuance policies (which, for most of us, are readily available online – apparently a new concept for HarperCollins – assuming this was also a lovely HarperCollins initiative).

I get that OverDrive and individual publishers need to look to new funding models, or will need to eventually. But this? Well – it just seems weird to me.

What do you guys think?

Update – Further reading:

pic by Alex E. Proimos