Harper Collins vs. Libraries – battling for the future of lending digital content

There are other where blogs you can read more about this. The upshot is that OverDrive sent out a “State of OverDrive” letter which had some concerning news in it. The Librarian in Black outlines the primary issues. The big deal is that one publisher, Harper Collins, wants to dramatically change its ebook terms such that once you “buy” an ebook to be distributed via overdrive, it can circulate 26 times and then no more. Keep in mind that OverDrive is acceding to these requests, so I think we rightfully have a bone to pick with them as well. BoingBoing gives you some information on why this sort of DRM situation is bad for libraries, bad for people.

There are some other things in the OverDrive note including them starting to be hardasses with libraries about who is in their geographical region, to make sure libraries aren’t, I guess, defrauding OverDrive and giving cards to any old person so that they can rip OverDrive off? The mind boggles. I call this meddling. Bobbi Newman has a good and updated summary of who is saying what about this and this Library Journal article about it is replete with comments.

Now is really the time for us to step up and use our excellent collective buying power to say that this sort of thing is not at all okay. I am sorry if OverDrive is realizing that their revenue model isn’t as terrific as they maybe thought it would be, but this is overstepping what a decent vendor/library model should look like. I just get this weird feeling that in these tough economic times where even the casinos without Swedish license are gaining popularity, OverDrive and book publishers, forgetting that libraries are some of their best and most enduring customers, have decided to see how they can get more money for fewer services. At the same time, they’re treating libraries as if we’re the ones responsible for publishers’ revenue problems. Shame on both Harper Collins for being tough guys and OverDrive for giving in to these demands.

Publishers and vendors: we will work with you to find ways to lend digital content. You need to not treat libraries as if they’re contributing to your demise.

11 thoughts on “Harper Collins vs. Libraries – battling for the future of lending digital content

  1. This situation, and many others like it (1984 and the Kindle, etc.) is what inspired us to start the Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books project, over at: http://readersbillofrights.info/ We hope that this guide is useful to librarians when evaluating what is (and in the case of Overdrive, what is not) worth purchasing and supporting.

    I think the only way that we can expect things to change is if we collectively avoid heinous digital restrictions upon our right to read. I agree with Doctorow–just say no to DRM!

  2. As happy as I was to see the “issue one” issue of my post take off I am equally disappointed to see “issue two” be neglected. So I’m glad to see it mentioned. Maybe its just me but my concern (and its not unfounded given issue one) is that publishers want to meddle in the library policy. Right now many libraries offer library cards to patrons who fall outside their direct population. Some of these cards are issued on a reciprocal policy, the idea you give our patrons access to your stuff and we’ll give your patrons access to our stuff. But many systems allow anyone outside their service area to purchase a card. So for $25 or $65 a year you can have access to all services of that system including digital services. THIS is the area I’m concern publishers want to meddle in. It may be small and may seem insignificant but its a small step into allow publisher to dictate library policy. Of course I could just be paranoid :-)

  3. Sounds like HarperCollins and Overdrive really want to drive people to get their eBooks through torrent downloads or some such thing. Somehow I always knew Overdrive was too good to be true & haven’t rushed to buy into it. If other publishers follow HarperCollins’ lead it will turn out I was right. In my state libraries buy into Overdrive as a consortium, with the purchased titles being available to all the patrons from those libraries. 26 uses per title is laughable.

  4. Just as offensive, in my mind, is the part of the Overdrive letter that references “publisher concern” with consortia and shared collections. Not only do they want to screw our ebook access, they want to ensure that consortia are destroyed or at least vastly weakened. Because, you know, it might just be too easy for libraries to fight this kind of crap if they had the size and leverage to fight back by refusing to buy their titles. Kind of reminds me of the current situation in Wisconsin. When it comes to dealing with vendors, consortia are the collective bargaining of the library world.

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