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Harper Collins eBook Controversy

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I still believe that Harper Collins’ new download policy is an inevitable evolution[1] in the process of reformatting books into the digital realm. Just like the audio industry, the eBook industry has to evolve in order to maintain the system in a way that users, distributers and authors can benefit from this policy. It does seem however that Harper Collins set an initial number that was low enough, twenty-six, for them to establish a new market that other publishers could follow and manipulate the prices in their favor. In the United States vs. Apple Inc.; the United States brought up a lawsuit against Apple and five other publishers, who had conspired to fix the prices of eBooks in order to control the market.[2] It is important to note that the actual pricing model that Harper Collins created was implemented after 2009, which is when Apple had initially created this system. Steve Jobs said, “The price will be the same... Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.", knowingly raising the prices of the books. Steve jobs already knew that the publishers, like Harper Collins, would raise their prices anyways.

It is important to make this distinction, because the argument is not about the prices of the books or the limited downloads. The policy itself is a necessary step when books from analog to the digital realm; there needs to be a system that manages the distribution and protection of the publisher and author’s rights. In 2006 the copyright law was amended, because they understood that library archives need to have updated technology for them to collect and archive digital works for freely.[3]

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Since the 2011 change in policy, not much has actually changed in the eBook system. In fact, many librarians have begun to understand how the whole market is beginning to shift in favor of a more concrete and fair model for the eBook market. Carolyn Brewer, the North Texas Library Partners Consortium, noted, “We probably are a little bit more understanding of their loan cap, even if we still are not sure we agree with the number 26, but we understand there may need to be some caps so [it’s more fair] to authors and publishers”.[4] Timothy Burke, the executive director of the Upper Hudson Library System, also understood the publisher’s need to create an effective closed circuit system; ““We understand the publishers are looking for a way to come up with a model that works for them, and libraries are willing to work toward that.”[5] A recent analysis by the Association of American Publishers, showed that between 2011 and 2015, demand for eBooks has begun to level off. It seems that for now, the fears that eBook demands could not be met due to this pricing model are incorrect.[6] According to a survey done in 2011 by the Pew research center, “a majority of print readers (54%) and readers of e-books (61%) said they prefer to purchase their own copies of these books rather than borrow them from somewhere else.” In response, many libraries have been more willing to adjust to pricing models similar to Harper Collins’

Now that the system is in place, libraries are doing a better job of navigating the digital retail space. The CML’s technical service director noted,” “We have had no problems to date – smooth sailing, I’m not sure we’ve even hit the cap – so for all of the hand wringing out there, we have been just fine.”[7] Others have begun to take a more strategic approach to handling their libraries budget. ““There will be some who may have to be more selective about how they can use their digital book budgets.”[8] Harper Collins gave a good description of the changes being made to the lending and purchasing services, “Our hope is to make the cost per circulation for e-books less than that of the corresponding physical book. In fact, the digital list price is generally 20% lower than the print version, and sold to distributors at a discount.”[9]

In order to successfully incorporate this new system, librarians need to know their visitors better; what kinds of books are popular, what medium is being used, etc. This will help the facilitation of use and preservation more easily in the future. The ability to maintain, share and keep track of the books is made simpler. They can use simple algorithms to track actual use and distribution and make more intelligent and frugal decisions.  Despite what other classmates have voiced, I have to advocate for the continued use of the Harper Collins model; although it is definitely still a work in progress.

Schoenherr, Steven. "The Digital Revolution." Wayback Machine[1] http://web.archive.org/web/20081007132355/http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/recording/digital.html . Accessed 4 August 2016

[2] http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/apple-op-below.pdf

[3] http://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/news/publications/copyrightgreenpaper.pdf

Kelley, Michael. "One Year Later Harper Collins Sticking To 26-Loan Cap, and Some Librarians Rethink Opposition." The Digital Shift[4] http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/ebooks/one-year-later-harpercollins-sticking-to-26-loan-cap-and-some-librarians-rethink-opposition/ . Accessed 5 August 2016.

Kelley, Michael. "One Year Later Harper Collins Sticking To 26-Loan Cap, and Some Librarians Rethink Opposition." The Digital Shift [5] http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/ebooks/one-year-later-harpercollins-sticking-to-26-loan-cap-and-some-librarians-rethink-opposition/ . Accessed 7 August 2016.

[6] http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/ebook-sales-declined-in-2015-digital-audio-continued-growth/

Kelley, Michael. "One Year Later Harper Collins Sticking To 26-Loan Cap, and Some Librarians Rethink Opposition." The Digital Shift [7] http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/ebooks/one-year-later-harpercollins-sticking-to-26-loan-cap-and-some-librarians-rethink-opposition/ . Accessed 3 August 2016.

Bluestone, Marisa. "eBook sales decline in 2015; Digital Audio Growth Continued." DBW, [8] http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/a-limit-on-lending-e-books/ . Accessed 4 August 2016.

Marwell, Josh. "An open letter to librarians." Library Love Fest,  [9] http://harperlibrary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/03/open-letter-to-librarians.html . Accessed 5 August 2016.

 

elizabeth guevara