Aim Directly at Foot

Monday, March 7th, 2011

HarperCollins, in a seeming effort to cripple fledgling ebook sales, has recently announced a change in their licensing. With this change, libraries will be limited to loaning out an ebook 26 times, after which they will need to purchase it again. HarperCollins feels that a printed book would need to be replaced after 26 loans and thus, putting the same limitation on otherwise indestructible ebooks is reasonable.

Yes, really.

Meanwhile, a quick video shot by some Oklahoma librarians puts the lie to HarperCollins’ claims regarding the deterioration of physical books:

A pristine copy of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, borrowed 48 times, would have been needlessly re-bought, while Stuart Woods’s Swimming to Catalina, still going at 120 loans, would be on its fifth, pointless reincarnation.

Perhaps HarperCollins’ real mistake was in not issuing shittier-quality printed books for the past few years.

Finally, a serious question for HarperCollins, since they do seem to be listening: If you truly want to extract the proper value for their books, why not charge a small fee per checkout? This would be far more precise, while also preserving (and perhaps enhancing) revenue. It would certainly be more fair to all parties. Perhaps the only hurdle is setting up such a system? If so, consider redirecting the energy currently being wasted artificially crippling digital goods.


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