HarperCollins has revised the terms of their e-book lending terms to stipulate that, after 26 loans by a library, the license expires.

The publisher also issued a short 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.”

Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told LJ that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.

While HarperCollins may think that this equates to the lifespan of a print book, it does not. There are numerous books in libraries that range from new to over a hundred years old and people are still enjoying them. HarperCollins is only committed to making as much money as they can off of libraries by limiting what can be done with an e-book.

If an e-book is no longer popular, the library and librarians are the ones who should decide to no longer catalog said book. It should not be up to HarperCollins to arbitrarily decide when the lifespan of a book is over. While it is understandable to place a limit on simultaneous checkouts, limiting the number of checkouts will only alienate library patrons.

For librarians—many of whom are already frustrated with ebooks lending policies and user interface issues—further license restrictions seem to come at a particularly bad time, given strained budgets nationwide. It may also disproportionately affect libraries that set shorter loan periods for ebook circulation.

While HarperCollins is the first major publisher to amend the terms of loan for its titles, two other members of the publishing “big six”—Macmillan and Simon & Schuster—still do not allow ebooks to be circulated in libraries, much to the consternation of librarians.

If the major publishing houses continue to treat patrons like this, they should not be surprised when they have completely alienated everyone who ever thought of checking out or purchasing an e-book. They are, essentially, pushing people towards pirating e-books. Overly strict policies do this to people.

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