An Open Letter to HarperCollins from the Upper Hudson Library System (NY)
The Upper Hudson Library System and its member public libraries are strongly opposed to therecent decision by HarperCollins to establish a new e-content licensing policy.The Upper Hudson Library System, which provides the resource sharing network that connectsthe collections of the 29 public libraries in New York’s Albany and Rensselaer Counties, hasbeen providing our users with downloadable e-content for more than five years. As an earlyadopter of e-content with our partners at Overdrive, we have steadily built our collection of e-content in anticipation of the demand explosion that we knew was coming. When it finallycame at the end of 2010 with the proliferation of e-reader and mobile devices, our memberlibraries immediately began to plan to increase purchases of e-content. And HarperCollinstitles would certainly have been a significant part of collection expansion…until now.On February 28, 2011 your company announced that effective Monday March 7, 2011 the“total number of permitted checkouts” for any HarperCollins e-book will be 26, after whichpoint, libraries will have to purchase the e-book again. Further, if the decision is made not torepurchase the title, there is no option for the library to remove the title from its catalog.Instead, it will remain listed and unavailable for customers and library staff to access. Yourcompany’s rationale for this change is to more closely align e-book purchases with traditionalbook purchases which do have a useful life expectancy, and as such, present an opportunity foradditional sales for replacement copies.This abrupt change in your company’s approach to its relationship with the library market istroubling on several levels. First, the seemingly arbitrary determination that 26 circulations of an item as a measure of its useful life is not a true reflection of reality. The useful life of evenpaperback editions in libraries is typically well in excess of 100 circulations before the bookmust be replaced or withdrawn from the shelves. At a time when library funding is beingreduced across the country, forcing libraries to purchase the same copy of the same book everytime it reaches 26 checkouts will severely limit the buying power of libraries to build the wideand deep collections our users want and need. The impact of this policy change will certainlybe felt by HarperCollins and all publishers of both print and e-content materials as librariesevaluate where their dollars can go furthest.Secondly, recasting what was a “purchase agreement” into a “subscription agreement” withunreasonable use limitations makes it very difficult for libraries that are charged to beresponsible stewards of taxpayer money to justify spending money for your e-content titlesunder this new policy. One of our member library directors characterized any purchases underyour new policy as “blatant misuse of public funds.” Please don’t ask us to rent what we wereable to buy just two weeks ago.