The Publisher That Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The librarian Twitterverse exploded today with the news of HarperCollins’ decision to limit the number of checkouts on ebooks purchased for library use. To save me from reinventing the recap wheel, take a look at the following fantastic blog posts for the full rundown:

  • Bobbi Newman, spurred on by Joe Atzberger brought the story to wide bibliosphere attention. At the time, the only news we had was that a “certain publisher” was imposing these limits.
  • Library Journal‘s Josh Hadro reveals that HarperCollins was the publisher in question.
  • Smart Bitches, Trashy Books was the first site out of the librarian echo chamber to broadcast the story. In the roughly 30 minutes since they first published the story, they’ve already gotten 10 comments. Thanks a million, SB Sarah!
  • And authors have begun to voice their concern. Courtney Milan (not a HC author, but still), has expressed her reservations in an impassioned blog post.

This presents the question: What are we going to do about it? The librarian echo chamber is a limited audience, and if we wish to preserve our seat at the growing e-book table, it’s important to make sure a wider audience is aware of these changes. There are many routes for us to take here – educating our readers, local media, and anyone else who thinks libraries are important.

But I want to focus on the content creators, as this model can be incredibly damaging to the relationship (and continued success) that authors currently enjoy. One of the biggest advantages libraries offer writers is the ability to facilite discovery of a a their entire body of work. With a 26-checkout limit and new books coming out all the time, libraries will have to abandon older titles in order to stay current. A reduced breadth of titles in library collection can lead to fewer chances for ongoing readership. And if your backlist has gone out of print? Well, lotsa luck to ya.

Authors need to understand the potential long-term effects of this. Does your publisher have an interest in sustaining your visibility? You may need to take this into account as you consider your next contract negotiation.

Those of you reading this should consider the vast number of HarperCollins authors, and get in touch with them. I’m curious to know what they think.

And tell more people! The hashtag for the conversation is #hcod.

UPDATE: Blogger extraordinaire Eric Hellman (see this piece from yesterday for just one of many examples of his unique brand of insight is on point with this fact:

That brings up two more significant lists of authors (and lists of significant authors) whose visibility is affected by short-sighted ebook policies.

UPDATE 2: Have you contacted an author? Have they responded? I’d like to start gathering all the responses together in one place. Please post any relevant links in the comments.

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