C’mon HarperCollins. C’mon. We know that books aren’t flying off shelves like they used to, but you’re not helping matters with policies like this – setting your ebooks to lock up after 26 rentals and forcing libraries to buy a new copy to keep them on shelves. Ugh.
The publisher’s rationale is this: physical books wear out – HarperCollins has determined that this happens after 26 check-outs, on average – and so ebooks should wear out, too, allowing publishers to profit from libraries’ subsequently purchased copies. In an Open Letter to HarperCollins & Readers of eBooks, Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library System eloquently outlines why this “forced obsolescence,” as they call it, is an aggressively idiotic idea:
The argument against the arbitrary number is twofold. First, replacement of books in libraries is based upon the condition of the book, not the number of times it has been checked out. It is not unusual for popular books to be checked out 100 times or more before the wear and tear of circulation takes its toll and the book has to be replaced or repaired. Second, eBooks, too, eventually wear out. The electronic file formats become obsolete in a matter of years as technology progresses and customer interests change. Remember the switch from VHS to DVD or cassette to CD?
Putting those concerns aside, let’s stop to consider the underlying principle here, which is both dumb and dangerous: new formats should inherit the shortcomings of old ones. That’s ludicrous. Why should an ebook, which is not a physical thing, deteriorate at all? That’d be like a movie studio telling you to expect your DVDs to get fuzzier and fuzzier with repeated viewings, because that happened sometimes with VHS tapes. I don’t know how publishers are going to survive in a digital era, but if this is the best they can come up with, they deserve to suffer. [Pioneer Library System via Geekosystem]