Random House Library Pricing 2016

Random House and its co-head Penguin have settled on a price, beginning in 2016, to charge libraries and schools for e-books, and it’s $65 per title. And this is for use into perpetuity. This is right in line with the four-time upcharge for a print copy, with each book’s lifespan predicated on 26 “borrows.” I wonder if part of the decision hinged on the effectiveness of watermarking, not that libraries would ever attempt to game the system; instead, that hacking might make the current watermarking process virtually worthless. I don’t have a clue as to the right amount to charge a college for an e-book placed in that school’s virtual library, but this translates to an author royalty of around $10 to $12. For a book deemed worthy of clinical dissection by tens of thousand of students, is $10-12 bucks really equitable? Again, this is a sale that is final–and forever.

I support libraries one-hundred percent, and I believe they are charged too much for print books, but an e-book vacates the 26-“borrow” ambit in spades.  If watermarking does work, I’m wondering if perhaps a metric could be applied that would be equitable to the author–perhaps a hundred “borrows”–as perpetuity is indeed a very long time.  I’m surprised that the publisher would not support this this sort of structure as well.  And if one-hundred “borrows” isn’t a good number, come up with another–anything but unlimited use to perpetuity.

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