Saturday, March 26, 2011


Libraries are wonderful, magical things.

As a kid growing up... I should rephrase.  As an extremely nerdy military brat that moved around constantly, libraries always felt like home.  They were a refuge.  Enlisted military families have never made a lot of money.  My parents always did right by me, but we rarely had the money and toys thrown at us that seem to be commonplace now.  We also didn't have the money to afford all the books that my voracious reading required.  Libraries became a god-send.  I read anything I could get my hands on in the sci-fi section.  Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlen, Herbert, Hubbard.  Starting with the Narnia Series, I eventually branched off into fantasy as well.  First with Tolkien, then the original Dragonlance series, Piers Anthony, David Eddings and finally in high school, Robert Jordan, along with many, many others.  None of this would ever have been possible without libraries.

I recently read a book by Jo Walton, Among Others.  Although for the first 40 or 50 pages, I was afraid I was reading yet-another-teen-diary-novel, I plodded through based on good reviews from others.  It was worth the effort.  The protagonist performs the occasional "magic", leaving the reader wondering if it's really happening, or if it's all in her head, or if any of that really matters.  More importantly though for the topic of this discussion, the book read like an ode to libraries and librarians, with the "diary entries" containing little short reviews of various 60's and 70's scifi books that the protagonist read.  For me, some brought back nostalgia, others had me reaching for my browser to look up the titles on Amazon.  It was a fun time.

Recently though, there's been a rash of articles on the wars that various publishers seem to be waging on libraries and their ability to lend ebooks.  Somehow lending an ebook is drastically different to a publisher.  Selling books to libraries, well it would be impossible to stop, but since ebooks are licensed and not sold, they feel that they're taking away from their sales.  Harper Collins recently put a limit on the number of times a library could "check out" an ebook for lending to 26, based on the average check out time of 14 days.  Basically causing that ebook to self-destruct for the library after, at most, one year of checkouts.  Since checking out a book for a day or only a few hours is not uncommon, often once the reader realizes the book isn't what they want, the actual time they can be checked out goes down even more.  Somehow in the mind of Harper Collins, a year is what they predict all a regular print book will last, a fact many librarians find laughable.  Macmillan and Simon and Schuster don't license their ebooks to libraries at all.

In response, many libraries and librarians are boycotting Harper Collins.  Sadly, I don't think it will work.  They really don't want to sell to libraries.  At best, these publishers probably see libraries as a necessary evil for their print books, and taking away from their sales.  I hate sitting idle and watching bad things happen.  Screwing over libraries just feels bad.  It's like screwing over an orphanage or a soup kitchen.  It's like drowning kittens or using puppies for batting practice.  So in addition to contacting Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster, I've decided to join in with the libraries.  I won't be buying any new books from the various imprints  (there's a lot of them) of Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster.  This includes hardcovers, paperbacks and ebooks.  These publishers won't see another dime from me until their policies have changed.

Am I overreacting? Probably.  Will my actions have any effect on them? Nope.  Just as paperbacks are currently the preferred method of reading now, ebooks are growing in popularity and I still feel will end up replacing paperbacks as the dominant way of reading in the future.  I hate sitting by and watching libraries be unable to lend books.  I have to do something, even if I'm just chasing windmills.

Oh, and Jo Walton's book, Among Others, the one I felt was an ode to libraries and librarians? It's a Tor book.  A Macmillan imprint.  You can't check her ebook out from your library.

1 comment:

  1. It is a tragedy and so disheartening that the publishing industry is denying libraries and readers from reading e-books!