This is kind of a good news/bad news story. The good news is that Hachette is going to be offering its full catalog to libraries, including new releases. No windowing!
The other piece of good news is that the books won’t expire, unlike library books from HarperCollins, Penguin and Macmillan.
I really like the no-expiration part. I always fee a bit guilty when I check out a HarperCollins book, start it and realize I don’t like it. There went one of the 26 lends…
The bad news is the pricing, although it’s not all bad news, considering that the books won’t expire. The pricing will be three times the primary physical book price (likely to be the hardcover price for many new releases). One year after publication, the price will drop to one and a half times. After a year the primary book price will still likely be the full hardcover price, even though hardcovers that old will be selling from the bargain bin.
I think it’s mostly good news, though I do wish publishers would back down on their pricing or expiration strategies. Libraries are non-profits and often struggle financially. Giving them a break would be the right thing to do since many people discover new favorite authors from libraries. But unfortunately, publishers don’t always take the long view of things.
This pricing actually seems pretty fair to me. Bear with me for a moment on this. From what I’ve read, the average physical library book survives 30-35 loans. The average library ebook? Unlimited. Physical book? Costs to shelve, store, check in, check out, and eventually dispose of. Ebook? Nuttin’. Even if the ebook doesn’t get taken out a hundred times and thus recoup its price that way, it’s still cheaper to own, and for some of the library’s patrons, it’s a more attractive object. It has a faster turnaround time, since it can’t be kept overdue, and the next person on the waiting list doesn’t need to wait for the librarian to fish the book out of a return bin and make a phone call. My parents are older, and they find it an invaluable convenience to check ebooks out of the library.
I think that maybe it’s fair that all of that convenience right away and cost-savings down the road might fairly be worth a little more money to the author and publisher.
The obvious solution is a massive online library which keeps checkout records that publishers can verify (no names, just the fact of checkout). The library pays the publisher so much per each checkout. Many people could read the book at the same time.
The library would get a copy of everything published. If any book became wildly popular, the publisher and author would reap immediate benefits.