The Green Mountain Mountain Library Consortium (GMLC) works to provide Vermont libraries with access to downloadable audiobooks and downloadable eBooks in an efficient and cost effective way. Our current vendor, OverDrive, has been terrific to work with and has helped us to establish a valuable service of providing these formats to Vermonters.

A few weeks ago Overdrive informed their customers that Harper Collins, a publisher of many popular titles, has imposed a 26 checkout limit on purchased eBooks. Under this new policy, our access to these titles will “expire” after they have been checked out 26 times. In order to continue to provide our patrons with access, the titles that have expired would need to be re-purchased, which Harper Collins says will be at a lower price rate.

GMLC is disappointed in this change in pricing structure. While we understand Harper Collins’ desire to ensure their digital files are not owned “in perpetuity,” we feel that there are other models that could have been implemented that would serve the needs of libraries, their patrons, and Harper Collins. One such example would have been a model similar to the “always available” leased model used by Tantor and Blackstone for their audio titles.

GMLC, along with libraries across the state and country, are looking to Harper Collins to reconsider this recent change to its ebook purchasing structure. Our decision to continue to purchase materials from Harper Collins will hinge on the next steps taken by this publisher.

The Green Mountain Library Consortium Board
Mary Danko, President

Direct comments can be made to Harper Collins at

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  1. jessamyn says:

    Totally understand that you needed to be politic about this, but was hoping for stronger words from GMLC. That said, I think you said what needs to be said and I hope GMLC no longer purchases titles from HC if they continue this policy and the meddling policies about how we give out library cards.

    • Genevieve Melle says:

      Absolutely — however, I am afraid that our little Vermont public Libraries are not much of a loss to Harper Collins–this would really need support of ALA to put pressure on better ‘deals’ for libraries across the USA. If the model does not exist, then the ALA needs to come up with one.

  2. Stephanie Chase says:

    At the Board meeting, we definitely talked for a while about what kind of statement to make. OverDrive places HarperCollins titles in a separate purchasing area, essentially making them that much harder for member libraries to purchase, whether they want to or not. We have agreed, at the upcoming Board retreat, to discuss what revisions to our selection policy we might want to make. It might be that HC titles become to onerous to purchase; it might be that we purchase only HC titles with patron requests; it might mean we look at revamping the entire scope of what we are purchasing and the kind of collection we offer. I know the board would very much appreciate feedback into that larger question.

    Personally, with libraries representing what is actually a not-very-big part of publishers’ business, I feel like any kind of boycott is really only hurting the patrons and the authors. It is important, to me, that we keep pushing, in the most collaborative way possible, to help publishers come up with an access and pricing model that works for both sides, and is a benefit to the patron. I am a huge advocate of just being clear that we’re leasing access to these titles and not actually owning them, and that maybe our collection changes significantly from year to year as we change leasing packages. I probably don’t want to “own” titles that will, in all likelihood, not actually last years into the future as technology changes.

  3. aslum says:

    I don’t think the basic idea is wrong, just the number is way too low… print books don’t wear out that fast. Most check out 3-10 times that much while still being nice enough to keep in a collection. If they’d set the number at 100 or 200 check outs, I don’t think there would be anywhere near as much of an outcry.

    • Mary Danko says:

      Personally, I agree…we are only getting a license to these titles but the 26 limit seems outrageously low. I also think that this ultimately hurts Harper Collins. While libraries are low in purchasing we do provide exposure.

  4. Owen McDermott says:

    It sounds like you guys aren’t too surprised by the change. It did really surprise me. I thought we were building a digital collection that we could use for all time. This is why I had been asking around to see if folks wanted to start building a collection for Kindles or Nooks that we could also all share. With this new understanding I wonder how many times some of our titles have been out. Are we anywhere near 26?

    • Mary Danko says:

      I wasn’t too surprised that this occurred. There are publishers who don’t even allow their eBooks for library lending. However, I think that is a mistake as is Harper Collins 26 checkout limit.

      I dream of a collection that librarians build with our own easy-to-use interface and we negotiate with the publishers! Sounds like a fantastic project. Right now I feel like Overdrive is doing pretty well and negotiating with all these different publishers sounds very challenging. We all need to keep up the conversation with both them and the publishers.

      We aren’t anywhere near 26 checkouts for ListenUp! Vermont eBooks. And our Harper Collins titles have fairly low circs right now. However, we’ve only been offering this service since November and the numbers have been climbing steadily. It will be interesting to look at stats when we’ve reached a full year of circulating eBooks.

  5. Spencer says:

    Is the market for e-books really so large that they can risk alienating clients like this? Also, doesn’t this turn these e-books into rentals vs. purchases? I wonder if that has any legal ramifications.

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