What’s the advantage for libraries seeking to move to e-book formats? Not much, according to this article from Library Journal:
HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires….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.
This is utterly ridiculous. One of the major advantages of e-books is that they don’t wear out. Whatever happened to products that become “new and improved” with innovation rather than “same because crippled”?
Oh, that’s right — copyrights create a legal monopoly that allow for monopolistic behavior of the sort we regularly see from utility companies and the DMV. Now I remember.
Even so, HarperCollins’ move here seems incredibly short-sighted. They may well be killing off a lucrative new market (e-books for libraries) before it has a chance to develop fully. After all, most people still don’t have e-book readers and find it inconvenient to read books from a computer screen. As for libraries,
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.
Between the growing number of contemporary authors who distribute their books with a Creative Commons license and the growing repository of easily accessible public domain works in electronic text (“book”) and spoken (“audiobook”) form, there may be a great swath of written culture from the 20th century that becomes effectively inaccessible.
Update 2/28/2011: TechDirt has now picked up this story.