For years, public libraries building their e-book collections have typically done so with the agreement from publishers that once a library buys an e-book, it can lend it out, one reader at a time, an unlimited number of times.
Last week, that agreement was upended by HarperCollins Publishers when it began enforcing new restrictions on its e-books, requiring that books be checked out only 26 times before they expire. Assuming a two-week checkout period, that is long enough for a book to last at least one year.
The benefits of e-books over real books are many. One of which is that they last forever. A real book if dealt with harshly will eventually need to be replaced. Not so with e-books. But that also means publishers miss out on repurchases. HarperCollins Publishers didn’t like that one bit and decided to bully tax-funded public libraries.
Soon, if not already, there will be massive black markets or underground libraries filled with DRM-free e-books, with those published by HarperCollins first in line to be stripped of their expirations dates. These will be peer-to-peer e-book distribution systems using not computers but Kindles and Nooks. I don’t care for e-books and am very thankful that there are excellent public libraries around where I can go to borrow almost any real book, at any time, for free.