Expiration Date

By , March 16, 2011 12:19 pm

by Karen Helde

The story has been getting attention on blogs since February, but this week it hit the New York Times. Library copies of HarperCollins ebooks will expire after 26 loans. Assuming a two-week checkout period on a popular title, that means the book is gone from a library’s collection after a year. It’s fascinating to read the reactions. Given the current pressure on library budgets, it’s not surprising that many librarians are angry, but some think there’s some merit in the idea. HarperCollins released a predictable “can’t you see we’re trying to partner with you?” response. Many readers, library supporters and anti-DRM activists are outraged, but others defend the business needs of publishers, proclaim their distaste for ebooks in general, or argue that print books wear out too (true, but not that fast, according to these librarians)

I’ve yet to see ebooks gain a significant presence in law libraries, but I’m sure they’re in our future. And changes like this don’t make that future look rosy. It’s frustrating to see technologies which initially seem to offer cost savings and advantages for our users mature into yet another source of budget headache and administrative hassle.

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