I am glad to read this. Something you wrote here really resonated with me:
“Until now, libraryland’s response to ebook restrictions has been to prevaricate, form committees, and worry.”
I still see people responding the same way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that response, especially if it effects change. But clearly it’s not effecting change. I would love to know WHO in libraryland is gathering the Big Six publishers at the table with librarians. WHO? I hear that “we would be better off taking a measured approach,” but WHO exactly is taking that measured approach? I’m tired of waiting on committees and resolutions that never materialize. So I’m doing what I can do, and that means boycotting.
I also worry that people will spend time getting caught up in a “Boycott vs. No Boycott” debate. You’re exactly right – as a consumer I put my money where my mouth is all the time. But I don’t judge others for not spending their money the same way I do, and I don’t expect everyone to share my beliefs. I wish people weren’t so eager to say “A boycott is wrong.” I think framing it that way only makes us weaker by dividing us and marginalizing us.
Thanks for writing this Kate. Here are some of my questions/issues with the boycott
Say HC does pay attention to it? Say they want to start a discussion, who do they contact? The organizers of the boycott? AlA? Who is our spokes person? Who gets to speak for ALL of us?
Even, what are our terms? Meaning if HC does X we’ll stop the boycott? Removes the 26 check-out limit? DRM is still crappy cumbersome and clunky. Shouldn’t we ask for more? What about Simon & Schuster and MacMillan who don’t even allow libraries to purchase/lease their ebooks?
of course you can read more on my post about it
Jen, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head- the boycott is the result of major frustration with feeling helpless. I agree – a boycott doesn’t have to be uniform or universal. It’s a tactic. Will HC feel some kind of financial sting from this? Probably not – libraries aren’t a big part of their total revenue, boycott or no. Again, it’s not a picket line, it’s libraries collectively saying that these terms aren’t financially viable for them.
Bobbi, thanks for the link to your post. We should ask for more! You’re right – DRM is not going to work for any of us in the long term. I share your reservations about a boycott, especially when we talk about extending it to print, book lists, storytimes, etc. I don’t think we need to have shared terms or a single spokesperson. This isn’t a picket line – it’s a megaphone for libraries who feel that agreeing to the annual fee structure is fiscally irresponsible.
Perhaps, given the library share of the publishing market–noted at about 4.5% in this blogpost
a boycott may not be the wisest thing to do. Telling our soon to be annoyed patronage may be. Libraries should keep out of this little boycott other than to express outrage at being attacked again–this time from the very industry we helped to build.
Virginia, libraries have no financial leverage. I don’t think anyone went into the idea of a boycott thinking we’d actually cause any financial distress to publishers.
I really like Sarah’s post and I’m glad she crunched the numbers. Since then, I’ve seen several other figures, all smaller than her 4.5%. We don’t have any economic power.
But I disagree that this is an economic boycott. Why would our patrons be annoyed unless we held back on buying HC ebooks? I’m not sure a boycott will work for other reasons – it’s not like patrons have been banging down the doors of the two publishers who don’t sell ebooks to libraries demanding that they work with us.
Whenever I buy materials (not a big part of my current job, but it has been in the past), I think to myself, “Can I look the funders of this library in the eyes and say that I did the best I could to be a responsible steward of their money?” Accepting these terms would not let me do that. For me, that’s what the boycott is about.
Honestly, I’m not even angry. Or surprised. Part of me looks at this and starts running over my librarian skill-set and thinking about how I can market those skills to other fields, because I don’t see how we’re going to even have “librarians” in 20 years. But the bigger, better part of me thinks that we have to prove our worth not in dollars, but in cultural relevance (and, uh, free marketing for publishers’ products) and value to our communities.
You’re right that we need to involve our patrons. We need them to convey to everyone – publishers to politicians – what libraries are worth.
[...] On Boycotts and Readers’ Rights by Kate Sheehan (added 3.2.2011 5:45am est) [...]
[...] Loose Cannon Librarian ? On Boycotts and Readers’ Rights [...]
[...] On Boycotts and Readers’ RightsLoose Cannon Librarian | [...]
[...] Bonfield and Gabriel Farrel launched a project, Boycott HarperCollins. The Loose Cannon Librarian sums up the rationale for joining the boycott as well as I could state it, and this week I’m too pushed to do more [...]
No body has commented on where the authors stand who provide their material to Harper Collins. Are the authors in the business only to make as much money as they can or do they really like thier fan base. Many areas of the country do not have fans that can afford to buy every E-book that they like. Thus libraies come to their aid. This whole issue comes down to the Have’s have, and the Have Not’s don’t.
[...] Damage control comes in the form of open letters from OverDrive and HarperCollins. There has been a call for a boycott. Bobbi Newman, one of the first to jump on the story, is maintaining a list of news [...]
A quick note on your aside that an e-book “expires, so no overdue charges, which makes patrons happy and libraries that depend on fines for income nervous.” I can’t imagine many libraries really regard fines as an important source of income, but those that do: shame on you. Viewing fines as a revenue source is a perversion. The legitimate purpose of fines is to provide an incentive that books are returned to circulation promptly so others may use them. Smart librarians should do everything possible to create a good experience for patrons—and that includes an email alert before a book is due, to encourage its return or renewal, rather than after the material overdue, which would maximize income from fines. Librarians should aim for $0 fine income and 100% on-time returns. I realize this is off your main point, but I couldn’t let this pass.
I think that using our collective barganing is a worthwhile tactic. When we say that we’re against HarperCollins or DRM, we’re not opposed to access–we’re opposed to restrictive systems for reading. We’re working for our patrons and asserting that we won’t spend (their) money on platforms that restrict their rights and ability to read. The boycotts *are* about accessibility, in that they are working against restrictive end user license agreements that stand in the way of access.
You’re right that everyone is trying to figure out how ebooks will function right now. I hope that our anti-DRM campaigns can also function as an educational movement to help readers understand the current (restrictive) systems and to help them to decide what they want the future of ebooks to look like.
Librarians should help represent readers–who, in my experience, think that it’s unacceptable that they can’t print, download, and transfer digital files just because they happen to be ebooks.
There is one aspect of this that I don’t think gets brought up enough. Public libraries are trustees of public funds. Most of us are funded, in one way or another by public taxes, and I believe we have an obligation to use that money responsibly. In this case, I think refusing to do business with a company that demands we suddenly accept a nonstandard and onerous financial arrangement falls within that obligation.
[...] mainly because what I have to say is negative, and doesn’t add much to what others already said. But I noticed a couple things in the last few days that I wanted to [...]
[...] Gabriel Farrel launched a project, Boycott HarperCollins. Kate over at the Loose Cannon Librarian sums up the rationale for joining the boycott as well as I could state it, and this week I’m too pushed to do more [...]
I think David above has made a point that we ought to invest some effort into. As librarians we may not have much leverage with HarperCollins, but Stephen King probably does. Someone (again, the question is who, and representing what organization) should be enlisting HC authors to voice some outrage. The guy who writes the Lemony Snicket books, and makes HC a bucket of money, is going to have his calls returned.
[...] boycott site was started by several librarians, which provides a sample letter. As librarian Kate Sheehan blogged: “This boycott isn’t designed to punish HarperCollins for trying to come up with a solution, [...]
AS A RETITRED LIBRARIAN, I AM CONCERNED ABOUT THIS ISSUE — I HAVE BEEN READING SOME OF THE COMMENTS —-GOD GRANT US THE WISDOM TO FIND A FAIR AND EQUITABLE SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM OF APPARENT ‘HAVES’ AND ‘HAVE-NOTS’ — WHERE IS SOLOMAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM? BUT BEING FACETIOUS WILL NOT HELP–
IT WOULD APPEAR THAT A MELDING OF MINDS AND OPINIONS FROM THE BEST MINDS IN AMERICA WILL BE NEEDED– BUT WHO? AND HOW? JUST KNOW THIS –THIS INVOLVES A MORAL, LOGICAL AND REASONABLE SOLUTION –
GOD ALONE CAN HELP — MAKE THIS A MATTER OF PRAYER — IT HAS SUCH far-reaching possible effects!!!!