For you non-librarians out there, this may be the first you have heard of this. For those in the know, skip to the video which shows the wear-and-tear of 26+ loans.
On Friday, publisher HarperCollins announced that they would be limiting the use of their ebooks for libraries to 26 loans. This prompted outrage from throughout the public library community. With declining revenues and increasing demand, public libraries like Plainfield are struggling to provide the things our residents need and want. You may recall that demand for ebooks following Christmas resulted in the crashing of the OverDrive site, through which Plainfield provides ebooks and downloadable audiobooks.
HarperCollins responded on Tuesday with additional information about their decision. While one understands their desire to maintain their own revenue stream, 26 loans is an extremely low and arbitrary number. In the normal course of operations, libraries do purchase replacement copies of older books in order to continue making them available. What is not acknowledged is that public libraries also make use of donated books for replacement purposes, a practice that is not available with ebooks.
To demonstrate the point that 26 loans is not a realistic reflection of use before replacement, the Pioneer Library System in Oklahoma pulled few HarperCollins books that had been loaned more than 26 times to show typical wear-and-tear:
Time Magazine's online edition included another take on the issue.
The question of licensing and the limiting of ebook use isn't settled. Perhaps a tiered system, similar to the lease program for books, may come into play. As it stands now, HarperCollins decision will hamper the ability of this public library to meet the high demand for ebooks, so recently expressed by our residents.