Librarians to Hachette: Seriously? You want to triple the cost of ebooks?

The American Library Association has decried Hachette's decision to increase the cost of library ebooks by 220 percent. Hachette is the same publisher that has demanded that authors it publishes lean on Tor books to reinstate DRM on their books. Way to handle the 21st century, folks.

"After these tentative steps forward, we were stunned to learn that Hachette plans to more than double triple its prices starting October 1. Now we must ask, “With friends like these …’

"We are weary of faltering half steps and even more so of publishers that refuse to sell ebook titles to libraries at all. Today I have asked the ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group to develop more aggressive strategies and approaches for the nation’s library community to meet these challenges.

"Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially the many millions who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.”

This Just In: ALA Decries Hachette’s 220% Library Ebook Price Increase (Thanks, Aaron!)


  1. Looks like I won’t be buying Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s books any time soon, as they’re on the list of Hachette authors. Perhaps Jon or Stephen might want to have a word with their publisher about the potential loss in sales from the publisher’s tantrum.

  2. One wonders if this kind of stupidity will allow authors to break contracts and move to a publisher not determined to put themselves out of business from lack of sales.

  3. they’ll drive the libraries to obsolete extinction..and then the only keepers of culture left will be us pirates.   Hoist the black flag….it’s for the children.  seeding a few  thousand titles takes almost nothing in the way of bandwidth, and very little storage space.

    1. Most contracts are written as a percentage of revenues. So tripling the price will triple the revenues and thus triple the royalties. Book contracts are generally better than music or movie contracts.

  4. Hmm, somehow I think the US DoJ isn’t going to prosecute this company for cranking up eBook prices.  Save the prosecution for companies like Apple that you can get a huge settlement from.

    1. There’s quite a difference between raising the prices of your own books and price-fixing agreements with publishers whose books you sell… Also, Hachette was named in the price-fixing lawsuit, too.

  5. I work for an independently owned shop which carries books on several of the imprints under Hachette’s umbrella (Chronicle, Abrams, Innovative Kids).  Their billing, documentation, and shipping practices for their wholesale clients are atrocious, and they have some of the worst customer service I’ve ever dealt with from a book publisher/distributor.  You know it’s bad when the folks at their smaller imprints are bitching about *their own parent group* to their wholesale clients.

    What I mean to say is, Hachette’s policies are pretty shitty across the board.  I’m even more disgusted with them having read this.

  6. If there was a link to a proper article there might be a little more context. For example:

    There you would find Hatchette’s reasoning:
    “We believe these terms fairly reflect the value to the library customer, that the ebooks will not need periodic replacement as do print copies, and there is no limit on amount of borrowing activity per ebook copy,” Hachette VP, communications Sophie Cottrell told me.

    Interesting, especially considering if you keep reading you will find that half the major publishers don’t even offer e-books to libraries. 

    But, yeah, go get the pitchforks.

    1. ” Hachette still does not make new ebooks available to most libraries; all the books affected were published before April 2010.”
      So this is trying to extract more cash out of older material.

      “Examples of the new pricing include: “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer will increase from $22.99 to $34.99; “4th of July” by James Patterson will go from $13.99  to $20.99; and David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day” will go from $14.99 to $37.99.”

      And this will mean fewer books in libraries, meaning fewer people will see them, like them, and purchase them.

      Me Talk Pretty One Day is available in paperback on Amazon for $10.87 with prices going as low as $5. 
      It is available for kindle for $9.99.

      Unlimited borrowing seems nice, but gouging libraries seems stupid.

      RedBox can buy a DVD and rent the hell out of it without paying an extra fee, why are ebooks different?

      Or is this another way to make up the imaginary losses from people cracking their DRM?  Punish the people who would pay them to teach those dirty dirty pirates a lesson.  Like 5 minutes of unskippable ads on a plastic disc telling you not to steal the object you legally purchased.

      Major Publishers are terrified of not getting every penny they used to and people seeing the book without them getting a cut.  Its sort of like how the Music and Movie industries declared war on consumers… and that isn’t going very well.

      1. “Like 5 minutes of unskippable ads on a plastic disc telling you not to steal the object you legally purchased.”

        And that is why I won’t buy their lovely products. Fuck me? No. Fuck you!

      2. The RedBox example is illustrative. Studios are boosting DVD prices because Netflix and RedBox are so successfully. If the general public won’t buy the disks in stores, the studios will boost the prices to be sky high to capture the money from the rental business.

        That’s why waiting times are sky rocketing at Netflix.

          1. Try renting any of the recently released DVDs from HBO. They’ve really boosted the price to discourage renters. At least that’s my reading. And they want to encourage subscriptions. 

    2. That would be awfully nice if the typical license didn’t limit the amount of lending. Typically, if a library wants to rent out two copies of an e-book, they have to purchase two separate license agreements. It’s stupid and ignores the fact that e-books are not the same as print books. I got my pitchfork right here.

      1. You get your pitchfork out and the authors will run away. Publishers aren’t made of money. If libraries pay the same price as regular readers but loan the books out as often as possible, the revenues will drop like a rock. And that means authors make much less and fewer good books will be written. Oh there will be some wonderful acts of charity, but most authors are not independently rich. They need the royalties.

        If the libraries don’t pay and the reader doesn’t pay, then the money disappears from the system.

        1. I’m all for writers getting paid, but I guarantee you not a penny of these rate hikes are going to any authors. This is about exploitation by the publishers who haven’t adjusted to the realities of electronic media.

          1. I think you’ve been hanging out around the conspiracy boards too long. Almost all publishing contracts are written as a percentage of revenues. While the publishers play some games, increasing the revenues always means that some is diverted to the author. Honest.

        2. Publishers aren’t made of money.

          They sure as hell aren’t made of fairy wings and unicorn farts. The job of the publisher is to get the material from the author to the public. If the dubious “job” of making money supersedes the primary function, they’ve failed.

          1. Right. And if the library becomes too good at  ensuring that only one digital copy of a book is purchased in each town, then they’re destroying their job of making sure there’s something to read. If you kill the business incentive for authors, only rich people and relentless blowhards will write. It’s hard work. 

          2. If you kill the business incentive for authors, only rich people and relentless blowhards will write.

            Not sure if reference to subject of post or reference to number of your comments therein.

    3. Not putting a limit is exceedingly kind. If each book is lent out an average of N times, then the revenue will 1/N. You can’t escape the brutal math that unlimited lending leads to publishers and authors making dramatically less.

      I think tripling the price is a pretty good attempt at a compromise. They recognize the value of libraries but also price the books to try to make the whole enterprise sustainable.

  7.  The unlimited amount of borrowing is a surprise and quite uncommon.  Most publishers are limiting electronic books to around 26 lendings per ebook.

    A new policy allowing more would be  acceptable.

    1.  Actually, that is just one publisher, Harper Collins.  Most of the rest don’t actually sell to libraries and one other (Random House) also charges an exorbitant amount.

  8. I’m not publisher savvy at all. Sorry, I’ll learn.  But Hachette?  Really?  WTF are you thinking? 
    Christ, what assholes. 

  9. For centuries, people have owned books.  They’ve had the right to loan them out, sell them, and will them to their heirs.  When audio and video recordings came along, forward-looking lawmakers in the US and elsewhere extended those same rights to the newer media. 

    Then computer software came along.  By this time, the idea of the commons and public good had become kind of quaint, beaten down by the unity of business and government.  The software companies convinced lawmakers that software was different from books, music, and video.  You could own the disk the software came on, but it was perfectly OK for the programmers to sell you only the right to use the software – revokable at any time for any reason. 

    Thus it is that I have shelves full of books, LPs, CDs, video tapes, and DVDs.  I can read, listen to, or watch them when I want.  I can lend them to my friends or sell them to strangers.  I can trade them for other books, LPs, CDs, tapes, or DVDs.  They are mine.  But every day I use a computer program that I don’t, and can’t, own.  Once a month I have to call a support person and get a new code number to reauthorize “my” program for another month’s use.

    This is what big media wants for books, music, and video, too.  Out ability to own those things sticks in their craw.  But now that they’re turning books, music, and video into software, they can change all that. 

    The E in E-books stands for “ephemeral.”  Since government is clearly not going to help us, there is only one way to fix this.  Until publishers extend to us – and libraries – the ownership rights that we have with printed books, don’t buy them and don’t read them.  Not even at the library.

  10. One of the earliest signs of a failed business is a price spike, a sudden increase in price to make-up for losses by decreased market demand. Of course, the price spike will further erode sales and income as customers go elsewhere or does without, to where the business either changes it’s business model of fails. Looks like readers at libraries will soon be reading ebooks by more competitive publishers.

    1. If only this were true. Most publishers won’t license ebooks to libraries because they can’t make up their development costs. Already everyone I know complains that the libraries have a terrible selection of ebooks. So they go and buy it directly from Amazon.

      The real people to worry about are the libraries themselves. They’re the dying industry. They make their money by sending the tax man out to collect it by force. Then they buy whatever they feel like. Their pension costs are huge and the combination of a Kindle and Google are 1000 times better than any bricks and mortar library. So how long will taxpayers cough up the cash for this nostalgia?

  11. librarians are the worst at ‘bargaining’ with their vendors. Just another massacre by the corporate over the individual.

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