Self-destructing eBooks rile librarians

“Crafting 21st-century solutions for equitable access to information while ensuring authors and publishers have a fair return on their investments is our common goal. The transition to the eBook format should not result in less availability,” said ALA President Roberta Stevens.

“The marketplace for eBooks is changing rapidly. We encourage publishers to look to libraries as a vehicle to reach and grow diverse audiences,” she added.

Through the petition, Woodworth said he hopes to convince HarperCollins to drop its limited check-out policy “in favor of another lending model that is more in line with the digital age and more permissive for libraries.”

Woodworth said publishers and libraries can strike a balance while incorporating flexible lending models and lower price points on eBooks. Future lending models might include a library charging a fee for new eBook releases.

Some libraries already charge for DVDs and similar materials, and charging a nominal fee for new eBook releases might help offset some of the cost, he said.

“It’s a matter of creating the conditions for the least amount of resistance for someone to purchase or borrow an eBook as opposed to trying to pirate it. Lest people forget, reading leads to more reading. It leads people to buy the books that they want to keep, whether they are physical or digital,” he said. “The question that should motivate both groups is this: ‘What can I do today to put our book in a reader’s hand?’ That should be the question that drives library eBook lending models as well as retail decisions.”

Woodworth said he hopes that librarians and publishing companies can come to develop closer relationships and collaborate to offer the best of both worlds as technology changes the way libraries and publishing traditionally have operated.

“It behooves librarians to seek out these new partnerships and to form new connections with the industries and businesses that are our proverbial next-door neighbors,” he said.