Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Brief Explanation of Why the South Sioux City Public Library Has Chosen to Abstain from Purchasing Materials from HarperCollins Publishing

The following is a brief explanation of why SSC Library is not purchasing materials from HarperCollins.
The mission of the South Sioux City Public Library is to provide access to informational, educational, cultural, and recreational materials and services in a variety of formats and technologies. To the fulfillment of that mission South Sioux City Public Library works with a consortium of libraries to deliver digital audio books and digital electronic (ebooks) to our library patrons.

On February 25th an announcement by HarperCollins publishers put into peril our ability to provide this service to our readers. On that day HarperCollins notified OverDrive, the vendor through which we obtain digital media, that they were placing a twenty-six checkout limit on all future digital ebooks purchased from HarperCollins. After a book reaches twenty-six checkouts the book would be removed from our consortium OverDrive library and we would be forced to purchase another copy of the book.

Before we deal with the implications of this for the South Sioux City Public Library and for the Nebraska OverDrive Library Consortium, let’s discuss how the consortium works. Nebraska OverDrive Library Consortium currently has over sixty member libraries in the state of Nebraska. Only one person can checkout a digital copy of a title at a time. Digital ebooks are checked out for three weeks, but can be returned early. Once the three week period is up, the book disappears off the patron’s ebook reader. Patrons cannot make a copy of the book or share the book with anyone else.

The implications of this are huge. With the new ruling, if the consortium purchased 3 copies of a popular HarperCollins title, only on South Sioux City Library patrons may only have one opportunity to checkout that book before it is removed from the collection. This would mean that we would, in effect, have to purchase a copy of a popular digital book every library patron who wants to read the book. We believe that this is poor stewardship of the library budget. We have initiated our boycott of HarperCollins books to raise awareness of this issue to the general public. Our concern, and the concern of many other librarians across the country is that this prescient would signal other publishers to follow similar policies, effectively blocking libraries from this growing market and limiting our ability to meet our patrons;’ demands for this technology.

For this reason we have started a boycott of “purchasing” HarperCollins materials, until a more equitable digital rights policy can be created. Patrons may still checkout all the HarperCollins titles in our collection. If we do not have a HarperCollins title, we are willing to borrow a copy of the title from another library. If a patron donated a copy of a HarperCollins title to the library, it would be put into circulation. Our decision is not to use “tax payer dollars” to purchase titles from HarperCollins and its imprints.

The library supports and encourages a prosperous publishing community. We have gladly honored the digital rights agreements in the past, and support the right of HarperCollins to have the digital rights policy that they choose. We have simply chosen to abstain from “purchasing” titles, in any format, from HarperCollins until a more reasonable digital rights policy is put forward.

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