“The gold ones are Galleons. Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle, it’s easy enough.”
― JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I’ve been thinking a lot about the 52 checkout/24 month lending model too much lately – it’s the focus of my next blog post on ebooks and school libraries but waking up to a news item in OverDrive this morning has prompted a post about Pottermore ebooks instead:
Basically the news was announcing that Pottermore is “updating their library lending terms for their eBooks from their current 5 years term to 2 years or 52 checkouts (whichever comes first) for all customers and markets [and that any] Pottermore eBook purchased before this date will remain under the 5 year term until they expire. All new eBook purchases made 15 January 2015 and forward will be under the 2 year/52 checkout model. All Pottermore audiobooks will remain available 5 year lending term”.
Source: OverDrive Marketplace, 15 January 2016
Pottermore titles are currently only available through OverDrive – so this news doesn’t affect school libraries with Wheeler’s eplatform or Bolinda BorrowBox digital collections, however, the trend of publishers offering digital content to Libraries on the 52 checkout/24 month model is worrying to me and affects all libraries with digital collections. I wish publishers would understand that every ebook that is replaced after two years in a school library with a fixed and in many cases small ebook budget possibly results in lesser known and new authors not being selected, purchased and showcased.
School librarians are passionate about getting kids to experience the magic of reading and to be able to read from the widest range of authors, titles and formats as possible…and something I feel Hermione would approve of.
Here is what I am thinking regarding this pricing/lending model development…
Here’s yet another publisher choosing the 52 checkout/24 month model for digital content. Ironically the prices so far are the same as they were asking under the 5 year model, so I’m assuming this is an opportunity for Pottermore to earn more money from a very captive Library market. Changing the lending or lease period but keeping the price the same is a bit like saying “the price of a loaf of bread hasn’t gone up, but we’ll now only sell you half a loaf for the same amount”. Its not just school libraries affected, this will also impact public libraries with multiple copies in their digital collections – Auckland Libraries have 15 copies of Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone with holds on all copies – showing that the books are still perennially popular in all types of libraries.
The Harry Potter series was eagerly included in the very first order my school placed when we introduced digital content to our school in 2013. We own 2 copies of the earlier ebooks in the series and 1 copy of the others. Leasing at just over NZ$30.00 per copy for a five year term (expiring May 2018) seemed like a very reasonable balance between price and lending model [ironically I had been planning a post about what a great compromise between the one copy/one user model and a time metered model this was!]. If we had purchased these on the 52 checkout/24 month model our first copies would have expired last year.
Let me talk a little about that ‘reasonable balance between price and lending model’:
If we wanted to buy an extra ebook copy of Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone today it would cost my school midway between the retail price of NZ$21.99 for the paperback and NZ$36.99 for the hardback. The ebook version of Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone is currently available in the Amazon.com.au store for AU$9.36 (NZ$9.96), and in an enhanced edition (containing video) in Apple iBooks store at NZ$13.99, and at US$8.64 at the official Pottermore site. There is a considerable mark up on the ebook price for libraries versus retail – which I get, I really do – and I’ve said in an earlier post that the advantage to libraries of digital content being immediately available, not wearing out, being overdue or lost is worthy of a [reasonable] premium on the retail price….but add in the time based lending model of two years I’m feeling like I’ve lost an arm and a leg for the privilege. It’s not the price on its own that worries me, it’s the lending term at that price.
In our Library collection we have several copies of the Harry Potter series titles in hardback in both our Junior and Middle Libraries, the audiobooks on CD, and physical copies of the books in Spanish, German and French. I was considering buying the digital version of the foreign language titles to support our language learners but now that the purchasing model has changed I’ll have to revisit the idea or at least think about it some more and possibly survey more potential readers. The often touted publisher argument for needing to replace physical books as a justification for a time based lending model rubs a bit hard here. Our hardback copies of Harry Potter have lasted really very well. I haven’t had to replace the physical books every two years unless lost or damaged by a student and in those situations the replacement cost is met by the student not the Library.
Our 5 physical copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone have been issued 224 times (14.93 per year for all current copies owned since 2001). Our two ebook copies have been checked out 75 times since purchase in May 2013 but 59 times in the two years between May 2013 and May 2015 (29.5 per year for 2 copies) – hardly 52 checkouts within two years per copy even though this is a title that is more popular in ebook format than physical.
I’m confident the ebooks will still be popular in 2018 and we will repurchase them, as these are titles that I regard as ‘core’ to our fiction collections and it’s essential to have them in as many formats as possible, but I probably won’t repurchase multiple copies under a 52/24 model. It’s been my experience that many kids who start reading a library copy of Harry Potter invariably buy the whole series themselves, supporting my theory that by helping to create and support readers, school libraries are also developing and nurturing future book buyers.
See also this article from Nate Hoffelder in the Digital Reader about changes to the revenues at Pottermore prompting their decision to sell the ebooks outside of the Pottermore website.
Guide to Galleons, sickles and knuts from the Harry Potter Lexicon
Note on Harry Potter Audiobooks: I’m relieved that Pottermore are retaining the five year ownership model for the audiobooks we have purchased (it will be interesting to see if this changes). Downloadable audiobooks are fantastic not only for student enjoyment (who can resist Stephen Fry!) but especially for our kids who are reading at levels below their peers and for those with any type of reading difficulty. The Harry Potter titles in downloadable audio are expensive (NZ$115-130 each) and possibly out of reach for many school libraries (considering that a full set of 7 books is going to cost several hundred dollars). Compare the Library eaudio price to the retail price at Audible.com.au AU$39.95 (NZ41.50), and Pottermore US$24.95…