Self-destructing eBooks rile librarians

Some who signed the petition also left comments lamenting the HarperCollins policy.

“Until you create paper books that self-destruct after so many readings, don’t institute such a policy with eBooks,” wrote Cynthia Winfield.

Emily Thomas wrote: “In a time in which libraries, faced with budget cuts, are struggling to keep services available to all, these limited-use eBooks are deplorable. Protect our libraries and please reconsider this policy.”

And commenter Elliot Polinsky’s short but to-the-point statement expressed his exact feelings about the policy: “Physical books last a lot longer than 26 reads… This is sleaze-ball.”

The change likely will be felt equally among school and public libraries.

“A book license that expires still leaves someone without it, whether [that person is] a member of the public or a high school student trying to finish a report. In some cases, that expired license might be a book that is not part of the curriculum anymore or outdated by something else; it may never be intended to be re-ordered,” Woodworth said. “I really can’t imagine trying to order eBooks for the school library and having to consider whether or not to set aside money to re-license titles or to buy other titles that students might be looking for that school year. I don’t think this restriction helps the collection development of any library—school or public or otherwise.”

American Library Association (ALA) statistics indicate that 66 percent of public libraries report offering free access to eBooks for their library users, up from 38 percent three years ago.