May 18, 2022

Cory Doctorow On "eBooks: Durability is a Feature, Not a Bug"

Cory Doctorow, author, free-speech/info access zealot, a very mportant friend of libraries/librarians, and an editor at BoingBoing, has had an article about ebooks and the HarperCollins situation published in The Guardian.

Here are a few sentences from Doctorow’s must read column:

“Ebooks have loads of demerits, especially as they are marketed to libraries. They are sold at full price, while print editions generally go at a hefty discount to reflect libraries’ volume purchasing. They can only be read with certain, proprietary readers, something analogous to insisting that the libraries require patrons to read their books by the light of one preferred manufacturer’s lightbulb. They can’t be sold on as a library discard once the library no longer needs them for the collection.

But they have virtues, too. For example, they don’t wear out. To pretend that this belongs on the “con” side rather than the “pro” side of the ebook chart is indefensible…

Of course ebooks don’t wear out. Programming them to self-destruct after 26 checkouts is tantamount to asking librarians to embrace entropy. Anyone who thinks that this is going to happen has never spent any time with a librarian.

By the way, the article with Doctorow talking about his love for libraries while growing up in Toronto. He mentions his jobs inputting ISBN’s during summer breaks and later working as a page at the North York Central Library, a branch of the Toronto Public Library.

Since we’re talking about the Toronto Public Library here’s a TPL fast fact.

The Toronto Public Library system is the busiest urban public library system in the world and has 99 branches. They’re also home to one of our most favorite OPACs (powered by Endeca).

See Also: More TPL facts and their 2009 Annual Report (Most current available).

See Also: Roundup: A Look at Some of the Mainstream Press Coverage of the HarperCollins Story
Material primarily from the first week of the story.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.