December 5, 2020

HarperCollins Sales Director Josh Marwell Posts "Open Letter to Librarians" & We Respond With a Few Quetions and Comments

A few questions for Josh Marwell, Harper Collins Sales Director, after publication of his open letter (linked below).

Dear Mr. Marwell:

We just read. “Open Letter to Librarians” on the Library Love Fest Blog.

I would like to share a few comments that we’ve posted on INFOdocket in the past few days about changes you plan to make regarding how e-books are licensed by libraries.

We spent many months examining the issues before making this change. We talked to agents and distributors, had discussions with librarians, and participated in the Library Journal e-book Summit and other conferences.

It might have been much more useful to have engaged a larger portion if not the entire library community before you made and announced your decisions vs. asking a selected few. One or more social media tools would have been ideal for interactive with the community.

As you’ve read and heard over the past few days, the library world is very passionate about ebooks to say the least. Engaging would have likely provided HC with not only some useful ideas to potentially provide a new licensing plan that all would be happy with but also a lot of goodwill for taking the time to listen and learn.

By the way, how many libraries/librarians did you speak with? What did they have to say? What did distributors have to say? Earlier today, Steve Potash, OverDrive’s CEO, published a blog post about how his company does all it can to work as an advocate for libraries.

2. Our prior e-book policy for libraries dates back almost 10 years to a time when the number of e-readers was too small to measure. It is projected that the installed base of e-reading devices domestically will reach nearly 40 million this year.

eBooks are booming. We’ve seen very few examples of library services in the past several years have received ha much media attention and user access in the past few years

The library community has spent a lot of time helping promoting/marketing/training member of the community about library-based ebooks.

What has this hard work and the success has caused provided libraries with at least in terms of HC material?

First, a surprise. It appears that many libraries had no idea that any of this was coming.

If we wouldn’t have worked (and continue to work hard) to get the word out (and explain how the service works) and then having users actually use the service it might be a bit different.

However, this is not what happened and also what is most important. What is? Providing services to our users that best meet their needs is key. We appeared to be on the way towards doing this with some ebook collections but now the financial issues that naturally play a role are going to very likely change things. Yes, of course, financial issues are always in play but why make the changes now, this week?

Second, at least at the present time, it appears that HC has pulled a nice chunk of rug out from underneath the library community. The rules are changing with almost little notice.

Finally, why did it take so long for HC to make a public statement? It would have been wise if your new blog post would have gone live moments after the OverDrive announcement especially given at how the topic was “THE TALK” of the library world moments after word of the upcoming changes were made via OverDrive.

These days engaging customers in the process to help find solutions that can be agreeable to all is a must. At same time working together can help forge relationships between all groups so future challenges can often be solved and easily.

We hope HarperCollins (and others) realize this ASAP and begin to work WITH the library world to find solutions during this time of very busy period of new tools, new resources, and new ideas.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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