Monday, February 28, 2011

A Change in the Future of eBooks?!

Our staff has been very excited over the last little while to be able to provide our patrons with free eBooks via Overdrive. Basically this is how Overdrive works (for a more detailed explanation, check out our third blog post):
  • You log in with your library card number from the library or home.
  • You pick a book you want to check out in either eBook or audiobook format.
  • You transfer that book to your favourite device, whether it be an iPod, or Sony Reader.
This sounds like a flawless service with over 40 000 titles available in digital format, completely free to anyone with a library card. However, Overdrive was recently faced with a major road block, when Harper Collins announced that they were going to put a limit on the amount of times a book can be checked out, allowing only 26 circulations per title before the book disappears, and needs to be purchased again.

Harper Collins is imposing this 26 check out rule because they believe that since printed books have a certain lifespan that this should be true for the digital title as well. I concede that printed books do eventually need to be replaced... but the idea that a book is discarded and re-purchased after just 26 uses is ridiculous.

One recently popular book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has circulated just short of fifty times, and is in perfectly acceptable condition -- we won't be replacing our paperback copy of this book any time soon. By Harper Collins' standards, though, we should be purchasing our third copy of this book in the near future, discarding two other adequate copies. We have books that have circulated far more than fifty times as well, and still remain on the shelves. So why only 26 checkouts?

This topic, being addressed as Harper Collins Overdrive or #hcod on Twitter, threatens the future of eBooks in libraries. If we are expected to replace a book as frequently as Harper Collins demands, it will be much more cost-efficient to stay with the traditional paper book format, where books can circulate until we deem they are unfit to be checked out.

Another option, which has been embraced by many libraries throughout North America, is to boycott titles by Harper Collins. (You can find more information here: ) Yes, this would be much more cost effective and while this course of action may cause Harper Collins to annul their previous decision, what if it doesn't? And what if other contributors to Overdrive follow suit? eBooks in small libraries really won't be a feasible option.

Our library has not taken any official action in regards to HCOD. We are interested in finding out what you think of the issue. If you would like to assert a position and let us know what you think, please comment below!

If you're looking for more information on this issue, check out the links below:

This is a collection of other blogs written by librarians and non-librarians in regards to HCOD:

Library Journal's report:

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