HarperCollins has initiated a new procedure for selling ebooks to lending libraries that sets a maximum of 26 checkouts per book. Since eBooks could last forever, the publisher has set an artificial wearing out time so that ebooks, like print books, will have to be periodically replaced.
How have libraries responded?
They're not happy. Especially at this time of reduced budgets and higher costs. Some have refused to buy more HarperCollins eBooks. Others are negotiating to increase the maximum from 26 to some larger number that more closely matches the lifetime of printed books. I've read that some hardback books are checked out hundreds of times with little wear and tear. Even paperback books last longer than 26 check outs.
As an author, I'm not so sure HarperCollins approach is unreasonable. Those sturdy library editions cost more because they're built to last. Electronic books sell for less than printed books because of the reduced manufacturing cost.
Here is an example of the cost difference: I sell the Kindle edition of Where Love Once Lived on Amazon.com for $5.99 and my cut is $4.16. The iPad version which sells for the same provides a profit of $3.36 after Apple takes its cut. It's less than that if the book is sold in UK or Canada, but not much.
In contrast, the print edition of Where Love Once Lived sells for $15.99 and my share from Amazon.com is $5.17. Books sold in bookstores and by other online outlets bring me $1.98 per book.
Since ebooks don't wear out, is it fair to the copyright holders for libraries to buy ebooks for less than the print editions and use them forever? Especially now with so many people switching to electronic book readers.
What do you think?