If sharing is caring, what's stealing?

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Date: May-June 2011
From: Poets & Writers Magazine(Vol. 39, Issue 3)
Publisher: Poets & Writers, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,091 words

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On March 7 HarperCollins raised the hackles of librarians across the country when it revised the rules governing the way its titles are offered for digital borrowing. Under the old agreement, each "copy" of an e-book--in effect, a content license--could be checked out and returned an indefinite number of times. But e-books sold to libraries under the new terms will expire after having cycled through twenty-six loans, a period the publisher says was chosen to approximate the life span of a printed book. The change, disclosed in a letter from digital distributor OverDrive about ten days before taking effect, prompted an immediate backlash. Within hours, members of the library blogosphere had launched a letter-writing campaign, amplified calls for an e-book users' bill of rights, and announced boycott actions that ran the gamut from refusing to review HarperCollins titles in trade publications to avoiding business with the publisher entirely.

The controversy is only the newest bone of contention in a relationship that has long been uneasy. Despite a 200 percent increase in e-book checkouts last year (according to OverDrive), librarians have continually taken issue with the transition from an "ownership" to a "licensing" model for e-books, citing the difficulty for patrons of negotiating a plethora of conflicting formats and devices; the restrictiveness of digital rights management software; and the frequent unavailability of new titles (two of the so-called Big Six publishers, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, have yet to make any of their e-books available for lending). Now, with HarperCollins's introduction of "self-destructing" e-books, some in the field are worried that libraries may be locked into an endless cycle of license renewals, putting...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A255089034