A recent change by Harper Collins Publishing regarding library-owned eBook has met with a lot of criticism:
The value of this magically convenient library book — otherwise known as an e-book — is the subject of a fresh and furious debate in the publishing world. For years, public libraries building their e-book collections have typically done so with the agreement from publishers that once a library buys an e-book, it can lend it out, one reader at a time, an unlimited number of times.
Last week, that agreement was upended by HarperCollins Publishers when it began enforcing new restrictions on its e-books, requiring that books be checked out only 26 times before they expire. Assuming a two-week checkout period, that is long enough for a book to last at least one year.
What could have been a simple, barely noticed change in policy has galvanized librarians across the country, many of whom called the new rule unfair and vowed to boycott e-books from HarperCollins, the publisher of Doris Lessing, Sarah Palin and Joyce Carol Oates.
While falt-out piracy is much easier with an eBook, it’s not clear to me how this is different from old-timey books. But before I get to that, Joseph Esposito offers this interesting solution (among several) to the eBook problem:
A surefire way to start to determine the promotional value of e-books in libraries is for libraries to offer ebooks for sale directly from their OPACs. Search for a book — oops! It’s checked out and won’t be coming back for two weeks. But you can buy it right now if you click here. While libraries are understandably not pleased to be thought of as commercial front-ends, if a library can run a bake sale, it can run a book sale. Indeed, my local public library operates a wonderful used-book store in its lobby, where I personally have spent perhaps $100 in the past year. A library’s cut on sales through OPACs can go directly to support library operations. I suspect that the library-as-bookstore is coming sooner than many suppose, as patron-driven acquisition (PDA) effectively creates a kind of bookstore within the library.
That’s one option, and, given the cash strapped nature of libraries, worth exploring. But there’s something simpler that should be tried:
limiting the number of people who can access an eBook at any given time. Place a hard time cap on eBooks, and I don’t really see how this is any different than checking out paper books. Yes, some people will try to hack the eBooks, but that could happen in any library-based eBook system.