On to a new topic today, although I’ve now figured out how to get the general population to rant in the comments. I’ve always been capable of pressing librarians’ buttons; it’s a blessing and a curse.
Now I know I can always throw homeschooling into the mix, because some people really have a bee in their bonnet about that topic.
Or maybe I can just scatter random words throughout the post to see who gets riled up. [Teacher's unions.] It might be fun for a while. [Welfare.] Then again it might get old after a while. [Affirmative action.] Or maybe not. [Designated hitter rule.]
And now for something completely different, the latest development in the ebook world. The news from Infodocket is that Hachette – one of the “big six” publishers – will now start selling ebooks to libraries, and at only 220% on average of the normal ebook price. This is the model Penguin adopted when they got back into the library ebook game.
Apparently that big meeting in January between ALA and the major ebook publishers didn’t go so well, despite all the tough talk the ALA wanted to unleash on them.
According to a followup article in LJ, the Hachette argument is that “ebooks do not need to be periodically replaced, and ‘there is no limit on amount of borrowing activity per ebook copy.’” This seems doubtful.
First, print books rarely need to be replaced. If print books were in constant need of replacement, libraries wouldn’t be selling off old bestsellers all the time.
Second, I seriously doubt there will be “no limit” on the borrowing activity of the ebook. So, either this is a flat out lie from Hachette, or it’s the best deal libraries have ever gotten on books. Let’s explore both scenarios.
If the limit is one checkout at a time, which seems to be the norm for Overdrive, then the statement is a lie and there is a limit on the borrowing activity. In that case, it’s the same one book out at a time policy libraries have always had, only more expensive.
Just to be generous, I’ll admit there’s a possibility that the Hachette statement isn’t a lie, just based on a total misunderstanding of how ebooks work. They might say that they’re providing a “copy” of an ebook which is then loaned to library patrons, just like a print book. Of course, that’s not how it works, and any lending is just of another copy of the copy, with the original “copy” (if that even makes sense) still available.
But let’s say it’s possible they’re either lying or clueless. In this scenario, as publishers start charging libraries 2-3 times the going rate for their ebooks, we have the perfect conditions for an experiment. (For the uninitiated, an experiment is what scientists do, even library scientists.)
We can test how many librarians are wasteful suckers willing to waste taxpayer money buying ebooks of interest for a limited time at exorbitant prices. If the book is limited to one checkout at a time, and the going rate is 220-300% higher than the print price, librarians who stock up on ebooks are wasteful suckers throwing away money.
With popular print titles, public libraries often buy multiple copies. If they do that with ebooks so more will be available, then they’ll be throwing even more money away.
Some librarians, like Jamie LaRue as reported in the LJ article, are going another, more sensible route. We’ll see how many follow, or how many decide that wasting public money on overpriced ebooks and cutting something else is more important.
On the other hand, maybe Hachette isn’t lying or clueless about there being no limitations on borrowing. In that case, this could be the deal of the century. If instead of buying a dozen print copies of the latest James Patterson novel, libraries could buy many fewer and just one ebook, which then could be lent to multiple patrons at once.
For bestsellers, this would be a great deal. For most other books, still probably not.
Either we’ll see whether Hachette is lying in its statement about borrowing limits and librarians will be suckers to buy Hachette books at inflated prices but still with borrowing limits, or we’ll see if Hachette is telling the truth and the deal might be quite good on selected bestsellers.
I’m thinking the former. And now we wait. [Homeschooling.]