The boycott of HarperCollins is not a knee-jerk reaction to feeling slighted. It is a demand to have our voices heard and to protect our already-squeezed budgets until a solution that benefits readers, libraries, and publishers can be found. I’m glad a publisher is willing to experiment with a new model for e-book circulation in libraries, though my hope is that HarperCollins will blaze a trail for collaboration with libraries, not undermine the doctrine that enables us to serve our communities. Publishers, it is not your responsibility to keep libraries afloat. But should it be your mission to close them down?
And it is here where a for-profit business conflicts with the cultural institution. If it was simply a money question, then the grumbling would be minor in comparison. But when there are core library values at risk such as literature access, the cultural record, or the overall integrity of the collection, that is where there is going to be a problem.
I’m with Kate and others that, while we appreciate publishers wanting to try something new in terms of pricing models, this isn’t going to cut it for some very core mission based reasons. It’s just not going to work with libraries as they step into an age of digital collections. Perhaps this new digital age does mean that book will never be out of print, but it shouldn’t mean that they are not worthy of collection in a publically accessible space. The collection still matters, even if it is stored on a server.
Sorry, HarperCollins, but the future of your pricing models is in another castle.