How to Protest HarperCollins at Your Own Comfort Level

There has been a bunch of talk about boycotting HarperCollins; some of it in favor, some of it not so much. There is a certain dichotomy to the issue in which it is a matter of principle (to secure future rights for lending materials) versus a sense of duty to patrons (the show must go on and we must purchase what our communities want). I would leave it to the individual to make their own judgments as to that dynamic, but I thought that by giving people options they could express their protest in a number of different ways.

I’ll start with the most draconian and work roughly towards the passive-aggressive end.

  • Boycott HarperCollins entirely

The most drastic of the protest means is also the most inline with the call for a boycott. It’s the most bang-for-your-buck in terms of protesting. You are protesting by closing your wallet to them entirely.

  • Boycott HarperCollins eBooks

This action is slightly less drastic and more focused on the issue that is present. Since this is where the initial problem arose from, it is an excellent way to put pressure on the company. You still get the print editions but avoid the hassle and disruption of workflow around the limited circulations. It is a ‘thanks but no thanks’ while continuing to offer eBooks from other more reasonable publishers.

  • Stop reviewing HarperCollins books for trade publications/book blogs

Trade publishers like Library Journal rely on librarians to review books for inclusion in their publications. Simply put: don’t review HarperCollins books. This reduces their visibility for inclusion by people who use it for collection development. Same goes for the book bloggers who are either paid, compensated with advanced copies, or do it out of their love of reading. Don’t review books from HC. Given that the market for books is growing larger and more crowded every day, their exclusion from the review page means less sales.

  • Stop using HarperCollins books for storytimes, book clubs, and “One Book, One X” programs

In looking at storytimes through a marketing eye, you have a captive audience listening to someone read from a selected book. I wouldn’t say it is a commercial, but it does highlight the book out of thousands/millions of holdings. And if the child likes the book, they will want to borrow it and others (especially if it is a series or features one character). Parents can be impressed by the book as well and may borrow it of their own volition. So, don’t use HarperCollins books for storytime and deny them this showcase moment.

The same can be said for book clubs and One Book programs; it is a group of people focused on one book for a prolonged period of time. It is a different form of marketing from storytimes essentially, but it is still about showcasing book through advertising (“Join our book club!”) and discussion. Find an alternative non-HC title and use that.

  • Remove HarperCollins titles from book displays and recommended reading list or pamphlets 

The lesson of retail, especially in bookstores, is this: visibility is viability. Think about all the books that you see in a bookstore and whether they are in a stand. Think about whether the books you tend to pick up and examine and whether their covers or spines were facing you. Highlighting books through displays, positioning on shelves, or as part of recommended reads will increase their chances of circulating. It’s a simple truth and my napkin math supports the protest economics of removing them from these displays and lists.

A less visible book will circulate less. Thus it will be less likely to be replaced due to circulation wear and tear. Thus when it comes to ordering the same author the next time, the smaller number of circulations will mean ordering less copies. Less copies mean less profits for the publisher. It’s more in line with ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ (no pun intended), but it does create an economic detriment.


This list is far from exhaustive or perfect. But, in making this list, everyone can partake in protest against HarperCollins on the basis of how they feel in regards to principle versus duty. You don’t have to stop buying HarperCollins books, but you don’t have to help them out either through the free marketing and advertising they enjoy every day at libraries across the country. The important thing is to take action because the eBook lending and circulation really does depend on what we as librarians do now.

So, protest away!

20 thoughts on “How to Protest HarperCollins at Your Own Comfort Level

    • What about them? Are you suggesting that they should be boycotted as well? Not doing business is vastly different than changing the rules during the game without telling the other team.

      • Well if we’re gonna get on our high-horse we might as well get all the way on. Refusing to work with libraries limits what we can offer our patrons, which is what this is really about right?

  1. After you’ve removed the HarperCollins titles from circulation, you can add them to your banned books display!

    • Since libraries don’t buy books for lots of reasons, I’ll guess we’ll have to add another shelf to this imaginary display!

  2. Pingback: Boycott? Bad idea. | ricearoniana

  3. There’s “comfort level” and there’s “within your control.”

    Are any libraries actually going to boycott HarperCollins entirely? I tend to doubt it as such a decision would have to get through a lot of administrators and board members.

    I’m sympathetic to what richard and ricearoniana are saying above in the comments and trackbacks. If a library is going to do any of this, I hope it is accompanied by a big PR campaign to their readers explaining exactly what they are doing and why.

    • So far as I’m aware, there are libraries doing it. I’d have to ask Brett (he’s one of the libraries behind the Boycott HC site) about it. I saw it being discussed on one of the local NJ listservs and I’ll have to find it to recall all the comments.

      I can understand ricearoniana’s position even if I don’t think it’s an ‘assault’ on the right to read. It’s not a denial of all reading and there are alternative venues for reading those titles. But I know that it’s not going to win everyone over and there are certainly different levels of comfort (hence this post). I just think that librarians discount the power than we wield and need a reminder.

  4. I am not currently in a position where I make buying decisions – but if I were, I would choose to buy ebooks from another publisher where my money would go further (i.e. no limits or caps) and I could get more bang for my buck. Budgets are tight – my small library couldn’t afford to repurchase titles each and every year!

    • In thinking about it, I’m wondering why library budgets can’t be built in with more flexibility for ‘pay as you go’ or similar sorts of services. I think it would be a step forward to find ways to make it work.

  5. Pingback: Is A Boycott of HarperCollins The Right Course of Action at This Time? #hcod #ebookrights | Librarian by Day

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  7. Libraries boycotting HC will backfire. If a patron can’t get the latest Janet Evanovich or Michael Crichton, they’re going to buy the book.

    Library boycott = HC making MORE money

  8. Pingback: Harper Collins (#hcod) New OverDrive DRM Terms Push Libraries to Fight for Users’ Rights | Good News Librarian

  9. I’m planning on doing some weeding in the near future. Any HarperCollins titles that I discard, I plan on sending back to them with a note that I was afraid that I might have exceeded the 26 circulation limit and I knew that they would want them back.

  10. Pingback: HarperCollinsGate: Some Thoughts « The Scholarly Kitchen

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  12. Pingback: HarperCollins eBook Controversy: A Bad Decision for All | Learning Technolgies

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