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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Open letter to HarperCollins

Today I wrote this to HarperCollins, at this address.

You may wish to do the same.

Dear HarperCollins:

I have written about this elsewhere, most recently here.

I have three concerns and one suggestion. My first concern is that as a volume purchaser, libraries should get discounts, not price hikes coinciding with new limitations of use. A second concern is that content licensing is itself profoundly destructive to the emerging ebook ecosystem. At present, libraries greatly assist authors in finding audiences. Passing things around – pulling copies from the library and distributing to booksales, church bazaars, charter schools, etc. – not only helps people find authors in ways they can afford, it also encourages reading, which is clearly one of the library’s role. From the other side, many libraries RECEIVE donations from people who bought a book but are done with it. How does one donate an ebook to the library under your model? My third concern is simply the long tail problem. What happens when our license expires, but the file is no longer available for renewing? You won’t let us own things. How can we be sure that titles endure past some arbitrary time?

My suggestion is this: instead of punishing us for being among your best customers, make us sales partners. My library has over 2 million website visits a year. All of those people are looking for books. Douglas County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, and highly tech savvy. We’re working on prototype systems for the display of ebooks, further simplifying the process of locating new authors.

The way it works now is people like what they read, so buy it. But there’s no reason we couldn’t make that an option right from our catalogs. And for every borrowing that turns into a purchase, the library should get a shareback, or credit for purchase, or reduction in the cost of future purchases, or some mix of the above. Buying through a library is a perk provided by the library, leveraging the cooperative purchasing power of their taxes (and yes, our patrons should get a discount, too). Advantage to you: a nationwide sales system, with eager salespeople you don’t even have to pay.

Remember, all we’re guilty of is the desire to buy books from you, and to generate ongoing interest in them. If HarperCollins isn’t interested in selling to us, I am confident that many small, independent publishers – and a growing number of self-published authors – certainly will be. And that might be a change in the ecosystem, too, accelerated by such decisions as the content licensing model. But I can’t see how HarperCollins would benefit from it.

1 comment:

turbobks said...

Your arguments are sound. I hope HC responds appropriately.