The advent of e-readers has made a sizable dent in the wallets of bookstores and libraries. Don’t believe us? Just Google “Borders” and “bankruptcy.” Unfortunately, bookstores aren’t the only literature-loving establishments to take a hit recently.
Libraries have also been affected both by the growth of the e-book industry and by the economy. To combat this, public libraries have tried to adapt to the electronic landscape by offering e-book rentals on their websites.
About 1,000 publishing houses currently offer e-books to libraries. Card holders can download these e-books from the library’s website to their computers and then onto their e-readers.
Like physical books, most e-books are “lent out” for three weeks. After that, card holders can choose to “renew” the book by downloading it again. Most e-books can be downloaded indefinitely.
There is one publisher, however, which doesn’t enjoy the idea of a library only paying for one e-book copy and then lending it out indefinitely to a limitless number of card holders. That’s why HarperCollins recently announced it will only allow its authors’ books to be downloaded 26 times before the library must purchase another electronic copy.
The theory is that a physical book would be lent out about 26 times before it would need to be re-purchased due to wear and tear. The publisher also noted that only one copy of each e-book can be “checked out” at a time. HarperCollins’ authors include such notable names as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and Sarah Palin.
Many public libraries have responded to this limitation by threatening to boycott HarperCollins e-books. They argue that the 26-rental limitation could dramatically impact their yearly budgets, which have already been slashed in recent years.
No word yet on whether HaperCollins will relax its newly introduced policies, given the mostly negative attention it has received. It is also worth noting that a couple other publishing powerhouses have yet to offer e-books to public libraries. They include Simon & Schuster and Macmillan.