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March 1, 2011


Mel G.

"Library Love Fest" - If there were an award for "most darkly hilarious blog title of all time" this would probably win it. HC, you can say you love libraries as much as you want, but it doesn't mean a thing if you don't prove it with actions. Has the circulation of print books at libraries killed your profits? No? Then, trust me, library circulation of e-books isn't going to either.

Mel G.

"If HarperCollins doesn't rethink this retrograde policy in time for the annual meeting of the American Library Association, it's going to be an interesting time at the Harper booth in the exhibits hall."

Oh, I wish I could afford to go. It's too bad that none of the people who should *really* be at that booth will be there - just the folks HarperCollins higher ups decide will make the best cannonfodder.


From the possibility of lends in perpetuity to just 26 sequential lends (essentially 1 year) of lending is unreasonable. Print books have a shelf life of at least 3-5 years before they may have to be removed from circulation, even popular titles (I asked my local library)so you can not possibly justify just one year for ebooks, a lending period should be at least comparable.
I am sorry but there is no way any reasonable person would accept such a limited view no matter how you to try to justify it. There is a difference between financial sense and plain manipulative greed


To G. Hugh Bodell:

The 26 circulations is total circs. Sequential, not simultaneous. In fact, libraries are only allowed 1 simultaneous circ for each copy of an ebook purchased. Each ebook is like a physical book and may only be checked out to one person at a time. So the new 26 circs limit HC is imposing is sequential for the life of the ebook. After it has been checked out 26 times, it dies and the library must repurchase a new copy if they still want it. What this means in practice, since most libraries allow ebooks to be checked out for 1 or 2 weeks, is that each copy of an ebook that a library purchases from Harper Collins can only be checked out for 6 months to a year before it self-destructs and must be repurchased. As a librarian who purchases ebooks for our library, this would destroy our financial ability to continue to purchase a varied selection of ebooks if other publishers follow suit. It is an extremely bad precedent that will destroy the library ebook model. (Maybe that's what Harper Collins wants?)

Eileen Chandler

See this youtube video from Pioneer Library System
It illustrates that this new policy is ridiculous! I do not agree with any kind of limitation on the number of checkouts of an ebook. When an ebook has several holds we buy a 2nd or 3rd copy. Now we will avoid HC ebooks - it would just be too cumbershome to monitor this and we don't have the funds to keep buying the same title over and over.


uh, your policy stinks. What about all the other publishers who are making it work for them? You might give them a call...

Katie Moellering

I would just as soon let you take my ebook that I purchased for my library after 26 circs as I would let you walk in my library wtih a book cart to take my PHYSICAL books off the shelf after 26 circs so I will have to purchase them again.
This is a ridiculous policy.

Kathie Meyer

HarperCollins: owned by FOX. 'Nuff said.


Ironic, isn't it, that (former?) HC author and copyright visionary Cory Doctorow just self-published his latest book, "With A Little Help."


It's like he knew it was coming...

Laura Deal

The idea that 26 checkouts/1 year = the life of a physical book is *completely* absurd. See this video from the Pioneer Library System for proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je90XRRrruM

I can only assume you are purposefully trying to price libraries out of the ebook business.

Michelle Luhtala

"We spent many months examining the issues before making this change. We talked to agents and distributors, had discussions with librarians..."

Really? Librarians? Not hearing much from THOSE librarians now, are we? Agents and distributors I believe...but librarians?

Doug Edmunds

"Twenty-six circulations can provide a year of availability for titles with the highest demand, and much longer for other titles and core backlist. If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point."

I notice how he hides 26 in written out text.

HC is making it up as they go along. This is such BS, all to make a buck. Their real problem is justifying the need for the 20th century publishing structure in a 21st century ebook world.

Zetta Brown

I'd rather see my ebooks lent through libraries LEGALLY than see them pirated ILLEGALLY. If HC really "cared" about libraries, they would know that libraries are forced to do more on less and less practically every year--while maintaining (near)state-of-the-art equipment and current resources.
Libraries have what authors and publishers want. READERS!

I'm sure there's a compromise to be had, but this 26-lend limit makes no sense. It makes dollars and cents to HC. Don't get me started on pricing ebooks "generally 20% lower than the print version." Stop trying to force traditional print publishing practices on ebooks. You can't make an apple an orange no matter what you do.


"Over the last few days we at HarperCollins have been listening to the discussion about the changes in our e-book policy."

Why not start listening BEFORE you made the changes in your policy? How disrespectful that you made these changes without even talking to the libraries who are one of your customers.

I buy many ebooks and borrow ebooks from my library and I still have no clue what an "emerging ebook ecosystem" is. I do know that publishers who treat their customers (booksellers, libraries, readers) poorly will not survive in the long-term. Reducing the library access to your books will also not be profitable for you in the long-term - fewer young readers mean fewer people buying books 20 years from now.

C. Apodaca

I wonder if HC has considered that library systems purchase multiple 'copies' of bestseller eBooks as they are published. Librarians will not purchase (rent?) more copies once the unrealistic circulation number has been reached. They will be using their limited funds to purchase the next bestseller. HC is expecting profits from librarians repeatedly purchasing the same titles. HC will be disappointed.


"Library love fest"? With friends like these...


I just wanted to say that boycotting only hurts those patrons who can't afford to read books and rely on the library. Two wrongs don't make a right.


Since this policy doubles the price at 26 uses, why not offer two options. The 26 use version for half the price of the unlimited version? Let us make the choice.


Not that the library loving Harper Collins would do this, but some other unscrupulous publisher might just surreptitiously contract with some Chinese sweatshop to "borrow" and return library eBooks. Just don't change your name to Harcol or Enron or ...


Publishers are making MORE money per title from many libraries because we are now purchasing an additional format for each title by your authors. Please remind me where the revenue loss is in this?

I balk at paying the same price for something that you already have in electronic format and which saves you money to produce.

26 uses does not apply to bestsellers, book club books, or popular books. WHY would a library buy an eBook bestseller to only get 26 uses out of it? Our bestsellers still have a longer shelf life than that! And what about consortiums?

I would like to see your marketing department's research that supports your "26 uses" because it probably doesn't reflect how people actually buy or use eBooks.


Considering that just yesterday I read a couple articles about people making money distributing books outside of the publishing houses (http://www.novelr.com/2011/02/27/rich-indie-writer), I'll just say: don't ask for whom the bell tolls, publishing houses. This is exactly the kind of policy that decentralized digital distribution will subvert, especially for savvy authors who understand that library patrons spur book sales, and that existing outside the traditional system lowers overhead dramatically.

It's also time for some real copyright reform for digital media, folks.


While I understand the need the treat ebooks differently than printed material, I do hope you reconsider your statistics. I would be interested in seeing the actual study you used to come by this number and if you would be willing to increase or decrease that number on an individual title basis depending on popularity.

Sounds impossible? Maybe but that's what we librarians are faced with when we receive a fixed number of more popular titles (Harry Potter or Twilight Series for example).

Coming from a small library that does indeed use OverDrive I can't see how we will be able to continue to use it as we have faced 3 budget cuts already this fiscal year.

Thank you for not thinking of us.

Martha Hardy

With all due respect, all the flowers and butterflies, unicorns, rainbows and fairy dust won't convince me that HarperCollins loves libraries and library patrons right now.

Marissa Joyce

this is just sad. the only difference between a library circulating a physical book and a library distributing an ebook is the fact that the publishers can track and monitor its curculation, and now wants to get their hands in it for their cut. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Stephen Francoeur

If HarperCollins doesn't rethink this retrograde policy in time for the annual meeting of the American Library Association, it's going to be an interesting time at the Harper booth in the exhibits hall.

Deborah McLaughlin

"What the hell is an "emerging ebook ecosystem" anyway? Anybody else's bullshit meter go off?"
LOL. Exactly my response.

Bill Manson

Sorry to take a second run at this topic, but I don't think that anyone else has raised this point.

HC's position is that because e-books won't wear out, libraries will buy fewer replacement copies and the publishers' revenues and authors royalties will suffer.

This comes from the industry that has over the last twenty years shortened initial print runs on mid-list books, forgotten what "backlist" means and, essentially, insured that any book other than a bestseller has a status of out-of-print six months after its publication date?

Now that's credibility!

Ivy Reisner

I did a quick survey of ebook torrents and piracy sites.

The most commonly pirated ebooks are those books that are sold only in print. Harry Potter tops the list.

The second largest category, and it has grown rapidly in just a few days, is HarperCollins books. America by Heart tops that list.

The smallest category is books published by Random House, and this includes the Millennium Trilogy.

Baen's books are unrepresented. I could not find one pirated copy of any of their books.

I love books, and I want the publishing industry to survive and thrive through the ebook revolution. The possibilities are wonderful for fast, easy distribution and for keeping an author's backlist available perpetually.

A smart man learns from his mistakes. A very smart man learns from the mistakes of others. Look at what happened to the music industry. Look at what happened to movies. The more those industries tried to tighten their grip, the more control ran right through their fingers. Don't go down that road.


This is a book-destroying policy. This is book burning by corporation. I do not support book burners. I am a college teacher who requires lots of books for my 70 students every term. I will not be ordering any HC books for my classes. I also read a ton on my own, and I will also be getting my first kindle this week. I will not be buying or reading HarperCollins until this entire book-destroying, DRM nonsense ends.


The concept of measuring the lifespan of a physical object to a digital object is incomparable. It's as if to say that DVDs and VHS have the same lifespan (or now e-movies), etc. Apples to oranges.

Libraries are being terribly underfunded right now and face constant attack, and for a publisher to make this move at such a financially difficult time for public services does not show respect for libraries.

The cost to create a digital copy is also incomparable. No ink, paper, shipping, tracking, personnel to pack, track, ship, or whatever... With digital content we are paying much more specifically for the content. Content doesn't expire upon number of circulations, nor does its cost change (libraries often do repair work).

I get a really bad feeling about this, and logistically, I do not feel their method of determining a cap is accurate. If publishers want to better support their authors (and I'm sure their priority it the company first, not the authors), why try to milk a starving cow? Why not look to places that actually have money or become more efficient or something?

If HarperCollins chooses to do this, I would look elsewhere for materials.

Atticus Fox

I am deeply, deeply saddened by this policy. Libraries aren't about pounds, shillings and pence; they are about making the joy of reading available to all. The Victorian philanthropists who, in many cases founded our public libraries had the vision to see that. It seems that today, we haven't the vision to see past a set of accounts.


As a reader it seems like a bizarre concept to me. I've borrowed out books from the library that are 20yrs old. Do books really wear out that much? I can't imagine a book would wear out after being borrowed 26 times. You need to seriously reconsider this - as I hope you've gathered from the many comments from librarians here. I understand you want something that's workable and fair to all parties, but this clearly isn't it.

If your concern in limiting circulation is with piracy, let me assure you that most of your titles have *already* been pirated. If you make it unlikely that libraries will have books available for borrowing, readers will either not read the book at all or just find a pirated copy (depending on their level of computer savvy, which of course grows daily in the general population). Having a book unavailable at a library does not promote sales.

If you continue with this policy, hopefully other publishers will learn from your mistakes. It'll be a shame though, since many of my favourite authors are published by HC or one of it's imprints.

Frances Grimble

As an author and publisher, I totally agree with the Harper Collins policy. Physical books wear out. Ebooks don't. There is no reason why the existence of a new format means authors and publisher should earn less for their work and financial investment.

Bob Farrigan

Looking forward to book publishers withering on the vine like the recording companies for the same usurious behavior. I will be actively avoiding HarperCollins to hasten that process. I'm excited that more authors are selling directly to readers via amazon and similiar vehicles while loaning to libraries directly.

Barbara Mayer

I love ebooks, but I would tell my library to stop buying them if they only have a 26 circulation limit as that is not a good use of library resources. I'm saddened by this because that means less access to variable print size for those with vision challenges and no access to books for those who cannot make frequent trips to the physical library. But in this economic climate we simply cannot waste public money and this would be a waste of it.

Josh Bishoff

I think this is totally reasonable.


In addition to the concerns well articulated already, I'll simply add that paper books have allowed libraries to share content over the generations. When I was a child in the 1960s, I read many books that the local library had purchased in the 1920s and earlier. That library had been, wisely, constructed to be large enough to house many books. Libraries simply cannot afford to pay for content forever. I think there must be ways to provide profits for publishers, shareholders, book sellers, and authors, while at the same time providing intellectual content to be shared through time.

J. R. Tomlin

First you screw authors with that ridiculous (supposed) 25% royalty that actually ends up at 14% when it gets to the author. THEN you decide to screw libraries. And that on top of the "agency" model that is screwing readers on ebook prices.

Let us instead of anything else discuss corporate greed.

Neil McAllister

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria is generally regarded as one of the great misfortunes of human history. Now, in their wisdom, the plutocrats of HarperCollins are building a new Library of Alexandria for the 21st century -- one that will burn itself every 1-2 years.

What is humanity but our shared culture? And how else do we share our culture but to make it available, generation after generation, through our libraries and schools?

Just like a thief snatching food from your pantry, the warped, stunted slime at HarperCollins would steal the education from your children's brains. In their lust to put human culture up for rent, they have become extortionists of humanity itself. The base greed and crapulence that allows HarperCollins execs to sleep at night is unfathomable. Shame on them.

And shame on us if we allow it.

Library Patron and Book Lover

This is absolutely ridiculous. I've been a big proponent of ebooks, and I've enjoyed many titles published by HC over the years, but I'm neither buying nor reading a book published by HarperCollins until this library-crippling move is renegotiated or dropped completely.

Kathie Brown

It would be wise for other publishers to stand back and watch how your "26 circ limit" pans out before jumping on the band wagon. You obviously don't care about the plight of libraries as state aid dwindles and budgets are slashed, forcing some libraries to close. Updating your policy as such puts us further in the hole and who needs that right now. I'll be asking our consortium to stop purchasing your eBooks and I'm sure I won't be the only one.


Post Scriptum: I just found out that I will not complete the Graphic Novels Collection based on Agatha Christie books. They are from HarperCollins too. I have 10. How many there are? My argument just increased that number minus 10.

Barbara Fister

Where to begin?

First, librarians do not spend their work day reading books so they can recommend them to others. Our reading the books in order to handsell them is not what you get out the public library system.

What you get is a populace with a self-defined and wide-ranging taste for books. If libraries are cut out of the "emerging" ecosystem you seem so eager to protect, fewer people will try out unfamiliar authors, fewer kids will have a chance to fall hard for books, and reading will become a pastime for those who can pay to play.

Or people will share books by other means. At least with libraries, you get paid something.

It's troubling to have the vital role of encouraging literacy dismissed as some kind of scheme that undermines your sales, as something you can only tolerate if it's kept tightly controlled.

Have you really asked your authors about this? Are they all on board? I would be surprised.

My publisher won't let libraries circulate e-books at all, something I certainly have never been consulted about; I am not happy about that, but then if buying a print book gives libraries the freedom to do what they want with it (short of copying it) and if it means anybody can read it, regardless of their ownership of gadgetry - well, that sounds better than having libraries' role in society controlled and curtailed for short-sighted business reasons.

Mia Amato

I find this incredibly short-sighted. The average age of a book buyer is older that 35; the average age of an ebook buyer slightly younger but not much. Readers younger than that often lack the disposable income to buy books.

My question to HC is this: Where do you think your new book customers are going to come from in the next five years? Ask your editors, your favorite customers, your most passionate bloggers, the indie bookstore owners you pretend to care so much about - ask them where they first discovered the books they love.

I'll bet 9 out of 10 will say they learned to love books -- and authors and genres -- at the library, where they could freely taste texts and develop affinities for authors, titles, and, yes, imprints and preferred publishers.

To keep ebooks out of the hands of those who can't afford to buy them is, from a social point of view, elitist and, from a business standpoint, incredibly stupid as this assures a non-replacing customer base and a dwindling, not growth, of new audience.


Dear HarperCollins,
I am not a librarian, I am a reader. I have been using Libraries since I was 7 and you can say that I go to a Library once a week.
I read a lot, from libraries.
At the same time, I read a lot, from books that I buy.
I have more than 3000 books, all of them bought by me. I am 34 years old.
I don't know (face to face) any other person with so many books, but I don't know (face to face) any other person who uses Libraries as much as I do, either.
In Portugal, we don't have ebook lending, AFAIK, but I can not express how sad I am to see your attack to libraries, those who taught me to love books.
There is another reason to feel upset with you: I am a great fan of Agatha Christie. I have all her books in Portuguese, some of them in different editions. Last year, I started to buy 1st editions of her books, but of course I can not afford all 1st editions.
So, I decided to make the fac-simile edition collection from HarperCollins (It's a great thing, the Internet). I have 12, until now. But I won't buy any other book from this collection. Or any other book from you, until you stop to attack libraries. An attack to a library is an attack to the readers of that library.
It will be hard, but it is the right thing to do. I don't want to give my money to publishers that make this kind of things to libraries and their readers.

Do you know how many fac-similes of 1st edition are from the Agatha Christie books? Well, that number minus 12 is my argument now.
Tomorrow, I can find another author published by you, and my argument will increase.
Goodbye, HarperCollins, maybe you'll start to treat your readers with the respect and we'll meet again.
Until then,
Paula Simoes


I appreciate HarperCollins sharing this letter and providing a place to discuss the issue.

No doubt Harper knows readers are passionate about their favorite books, but we're also passionate about getting others to read (and discuss) what we're reading. So it should be no surprise that avid readers--and the people who spend the most money on your publications--would also be staunch supporters of public access to books.

Libraries play an essential role in the culture of literacy and literature awareness. I strongly urge HarperCollins will reconsider the proposed timeframes of their ebook policy.

Twenty-six circs is a good start. But this doesn't accurately reflect the current lifespan of a book. From my own experiences, it seems popular books retain "buzz" for at least two years. And most libraries make books available for years, if not decades (keep in mind circulation usually drops off after the initial rush). So something like 52 circs (about 2 years' worth) would be more reasonable.

However--we want your bottom line to be healthy, too. We can't ignore the fact that the publishing industry is going through tumultuous times. So perhaps a middle point like 40 might work for everyone.

It can be win/win for all parties: more readers getting great HarperCollins books...more buzz in the community equaling more sales...more access to materials at libraries...reasonable expenditures for libraries...and a fair method for publishing houses to make a profit in the digital age.

Speaking of the digital age--isn't it great how on blogs you can edit, change or tweak what's written? Nothing is set in stone. It's all about conversation, social networking, crowdsourcing. So c'mon, HarperCollins, please take our input and tweak this policy! The digital age is all about MORE access, not less.

Charley Seavey

My advice to libraries is to treat this as an economic issue and simply stop buying from HarperCollins. Had we treated serials prices as an economic issue thirty years ago we would not be in the bind we are today.

Marcos Marado

I boycott HarperCollins, and I incite everyone (libraries, librarians and everyone else) to do the same. Here's why: http://mindboosternoori.blogspot.com/2011/03/harpercollins-greed-why-of-my-boycott.html

PC Sweeney

So sayeth the president of SALES!! Of course he's going to try to find ways to eff the library. He's not working for his clients, he's working for his bonus check.

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