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HarperCollins boycott launched over library eBook restrictions

At the end of February, HarperCollins decided that it would only allow its eBooks to be checked out of libraries 26 times before the license expires. (According to the Atlantic, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, two of the other “big six” traditional publishers, don’t allow eBooks in libraries at all.)

Nevertheless, a boycott of HarperCollins has been launched by librarians Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell that is getting a lot of attention. Their no-frills website, boycottharpercollins.com, has a very helpful page explaining why they are calling on consumers to not buy any books or eBooks from the company or any of its imprints, which it lists, until this policy is revoked. They also provide a sample letter that you can edit and send to HarperCollins explaining your support for the boycott.

As Bonfield and Farrell explain:

Given the pace of digital innovation, there’s a good chance that ebook files libraries purchase today will be obsolete within a few years. For now, libraries have arrangements with publishers and ebook vendors that include some restrictions on ebooks lending, such as two-week loan limits and one-borrower-at-a-time. These restrictions make borrowing or loaning an ebook much like borrowing or loaning a traditional book.

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While circulation limits on ebooks might encourage libraries to buy additional digital copies of some ebooks, that’s just speculation: libraries have limited budgets, especially in the current economy, so there is a good chance that libraries will spend the same amount on ebooks they are already spending but offer less variety because they would have to buy more copies of the most popular items.