Do printed library books really fall apart after 26 uses? (No, they don’t.)

Yeah, I’m still posting about HarperCollins’ new ebook library policy. It’s not just that it’s such a damned greedy, destructive move to make against libraries, the publishing equivalent of clubbing a highly literate seal. It’s that HarperCollins is using this policy change to try to push a 500%+ increase in the frequency with which libraries must replace books.

In other words, this isn’t about digital titles specifically. It’s about HarperCollins taking advantage of the ebook transition to enforce a very short lifespan on new book purchases. If they’d had the technology to do it with printed books, believe me, books would be crumbling into piles of dust every 12 months at your local library.

Earlier this week, a Booksprung commenter asked, “Does anybody know, on average, how many check-outs a typical (print) library book lasts before it has to be replaced due to loss, damage, or wear and tear?” I didn’t, but now we have some answers thanks to a video posted by the Pioneer Library System.



Although it’s true that librarians have a wry sense of humor, you might not feel like watching the whole thing. Here’s a summary.

Main takeaways:

  • Of the five physical books on display — each of which have been purchased once — the library would have had to make 13 total purchases at this point, with a 14th being triggered after one more checkout of “Sooner or Later.”
  • The most popular book has been checked out 120 times. Its spine is damaged and needs to be repaired, but otherwise it’s still lendable. The second most popular book been checked out 65 times, yet it’s still in excellent condition.

Here are the stats on each title in the video:

“Metro Girl” by Janet Evanovich
Checkouts: 65
Condition: Excellent
If this were an ebook: 3 purchases

“Ruby Holler” by Sharon Creech
Checkouts: 39
Condition: Slight spine damage but otherwise good
If this were an ebook: 2 purchases

“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
Checkouts: 48
Condition: Good
If this were an ebook: 2 purchases

“Swimming to Catalina” by Stuart Woods
Checkouts: 120!
Condition: Damaged spine but repairable
If this were an ebook: 5 purchases

“Sooner Or Later” by Debbie Macomber
Checkouts: 25
Condition: Nearly perfect
If this were an ebook: 1 purchase, but only one checkout left

“HarperCollins 26+ checkouts” [YouTube via Teleread]

Related:
“HarperCollins tries to justify its new library policy”
“How your next ebook loan might sap your library’s book budget”

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