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E-book pricing spurs debate

March 18, 2011

Earlier this year, Harper Collins Publishers surprised many people by announcing that libraries can only loan its e-books 26 times before the license expires. In an Open Letter to Librarians, the company said

We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book ecosystem, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.

Some libraries have begun to boycott the publisher, believing that this policy is unreasonable. At least the timing is bad. Local and state governments are looking everywhere to slash budgets, and libraries are not immune.

I don’t like the company’s decision, but I can’t help but give them credit for boldness. For far too long, stodgy book companies have waited and waffled. Harper Collins has, for better or worse, put something out there. We’ll see how it shakes out.

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