This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June (see original press release here) and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.
While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.
What’s more, other companies and other players in the ebook market have even gone beyond this model (e.g., Total Boox, Odilo) to provide instant, simultaneous access to ebooks in libraries and beyond. The fact that this move by HarperCollins is leading so many to call it game-changing is on some level a testament to how our industry (including publishers and libraries) views and values change and innovation. We often center our sentiments on what the most powerful do. Continue reading Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due