Apparently Words Wear Out

Media, Reading & Writing

And so it begins.

To the champions of eBooks (which I am, in principal) this feels inevitable; the time-limiting of texts. HarperCollins has announced that US libraries will be allowed to lend ebooks only up to 26 times. Its sales president, Josh Marwell, believes that’s only fair: 26, he claims, is the average number of loans a print book would survive before having to be replaced, but library tests have proven this to be utter rubbish.

If that was the case, how come I can buy fifty year-old novels that have obviously passed through a great many hands without falling to bits? No DVD seller limits you to 26 views because that’s the number of times a print runs in a cinema before being retired. It feels like an excuse to make money, and it will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit.

8 comments on “Apparently Words Wear Out”

  1. Martin W says:

    In other words, publishers get to benefit financially from new technology, book buyers don’t. “It’s only fair that you should give us just as much money as you would have if we still had printing costs to cover”.

  2. Jon says:

    I’m normally mild-mannered but this has actually really annoyed me. Who do we write to to complain about this nonsense?

  3. J. Folgard says:


  4. I.A.M. says:

    Jon: head to here to see an open letter from a group of US librarians to Harper Collins, as it’s a good start. To add this being in force as of today–World Books Day–is the height of either ignorance or arrogance.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I will certainly be writing to HarperCollins. I would think that there were quite a number of books, even paperbacks that had considerably more checkouts than 26 before I had to replace or repair them and I had an elementary school library where you would expect the heaviest wear and tear. Of course, there were paperbacks that wouldn’t even last one reading, but that is a different issue. What are they protecting? Can you read it an unlimited number of times if you buy it personally? I understand you’re not supposed to lend your reader to someone else. Who owns this device anyway? I think I’ll stick with a book where there are no restrictions on reading, lending, giving away or selling.

  6. M.E. Hydra says:

    It’s the last thrashings of a great beast as it rails against the imminence of its own extinction.

  7. Steve says:

    Just like with light bulbs (the old kind) and so many other things….”i”-anything, for example – it’s built-in obsolescence. If these things lasted as long as they actually could,or weren’t replaced by “the latest and greatest”, the manufacturers wouldn’t make enough money to satisfy their greed. So of course it’s about money.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    There was strong anti HarperCollins feeling at our BookCrossing group last night. The words ‘greed’ and ‘money’ seemed to express most of the conclusions.

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