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!