HarperCollins Sign Pay-per-Lend Agreements with Freading, Hoopla, OverDrive

When it comes to library ebooks, the usual way for libraries to acquire them is to pay for licenses for individual copies and then loan the ebooks in what Eric Hellman colorfully named the Pretend It’s Print (PIP) model.

Now HarperCollins is popularizing a new model where libraries pay authors and publishers each time a book is loaned to a patron. HC has signed deals with Freading, Hoopla, and Rakuten's OverDrive to loan 15 thousand backlist titles under the new model.

HarperCollins Sign Pay-per-Lend Agreements with Freading, Hoopla, OverDrive Library eBooks

From PW:

In a major announcement ahead of this week’s 2017 ALA Annual Conference, HarperCollins has agreed to make a selection of its e-book backlist titles available to public library users on a multi-user lending model, via Midwest Tape’s hoopla digital platform.

Starting in July, the publisher will make about 15,000 e-book titles available via hoopla, including works from bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman, Louise Erdrich, and Dennis Lehane. The agreement builds on a 2016 deal that made HarperCollins’ digital audiobook backlist available to library users on the hoopla digital platform.


For library patrons, that means 24/7 access to titles in the hoopla collection—no waiting on a hold list. And for librarians, it’s an alternative to the complicated, inefficient licensing arrangements that have defined the early days of library e-book lending.

HarperCollins continues to offer its frontlist and most of its backlist e-books to libraries on a one copy/one user model, with e-book titles having to be re-licensed after 26 lends.

Freading has been offering this service since 2012 (today is actually the 6th anniversary of the announcement). Hoopla got into this market three years ago, and OverDrive announced only last month that they too were going to offer ebooks under what it calls the"cost-per-circ" model.

Coincidentally, HarperCollins is not the first major publisher to adopt this model. OverDrive revealed in its announcement last month that they had signed Simon & Schuster.

Hardly anyone noticed that detail at the time, but it's still incredibly important. It points to two of the five major US trade publishers having an interest in this model over five years after it first appeared.

If you're puzzled by the glacial response rate, Bill Rosenblatt suggested it may be due to the need to negotiate new contracts:

Publishers, meanwhile, get paid based on actual readership, not on a per-title basis. That’s good for them conceptually, because it makes libraries more like channel partners. So why are publishers slow to embrace this model — which hoopla digital has offered for e-books since 2014?

One reason is author contracts. Many author contracts don’t provide for handling royalties on much other than simple book purchases. From the perspectives of rights management and royalty processing, both e-book retail and PIP library e-book revenues can be treated similarly to print book sales. Things get difficult for publishers when they license into access models that fall short of purchases: sometimes they have to pay authors for each access as if it were a purchase, even if a user only reads a few pages, because the author contracts won’t allow otherwise.

Other major publishers like HMH and Hachette may also be interested, but could still be working on the contract issue.

Libraries are also showing no small interest in this model; PW reports that at this year's BookExpo trade conference, Hoopla boasted that more than 1,500 libraries had signed up for Hoopla (also some 2,500 publishers).

That is still only a tithe compared to the 35,000 or more that have signed with OverDrive under the more traditional "pretend its print" model, but it's a start.


About Nate Hoffelder (11242 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

11 Comments on HarperCollins Sign Pay-per-Lend Agreements with Freading, Hoopla, OverDrive

  1. In fact, a pingback to my article gets more specific about those author contracts and confirms that something I’ve seen myself once (in one of my own author contracts) is common in trade author agreements: if the content isn’t sold (as a book, in the traditional sense), it’s considered “licensing” and the contract specifies — gasp — 50% royalty payments to the author, instead of the typical 10%. What’s unclear to me is whether/how publishers have been able to get away with paying “sales” royalties on retail e-book purchases, which (it is often argued) are really “licenses” and not “sales” after all. Otherwise… no wonder publishers don’t want to license into these new business models.

    The pingback, from a lawyer who has apparently done and/or handled many lawsuits over such contracts, is at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/06/hoopla-digital-and-harpercollins-disrupt-library-e-lending/ and is well worth a read, especially the older blog posts that he points to.

  2. As a library patron, I mostly like the Hoopla model. The no waiting is a nice thing, I just don’t particularly like reading on an app so I primarily use it for audiobooks.

    As a former library board member though, I know the Hoopla model can wreak havoc on the budget. I’m aware of a few libraries that have dropped it because they’re simply not able to predict demand/cost accurately.

  3. To Anne: About Hoopla, my library has a quota of titles which can be borrowed, and then it locks the entire library system out. I would guess that 75% of the time when I try to check something out, it is locked. I’ve learned to do my borrowing shortly after midnight — when things reset.

    • That is about what I expected. Publishers love the idea because it’s a money pit, but that is exactly why libraries won’t, nay can’t, use it heavily.

      It just costs too much.

    • Robert- That’s good to know. I wasn’t aware that option back then. Our library is new (November 2014) and still pretty small. Our monthly Hoopla quota is 30! I can find educating people on the available digital options exhausting but I’ll keep at it as I don’t want digital funds being moved to paper. Granted, that’s a purely selfish view on my part as limited internet access is a problem for many of the patrons.

      Anyway, this is the most recent article I had read about it. It hit on many of the points that I had heard being discussed by our very small acquisitions department:


  4. I will be really interested to see if this catches on. Publishers have been slow to adapt to the digital world so this could represent a change of attitude.

  5. Here’s what the San Jose library says to Hoopla users…

    “We love this resource, and we want everyone to have a chance to use it. That means that we have to figure out a way to make our payment model fair for everyone. After giving it a great deal of thought, we have decided that a way we can make Hoopla available to every one of our users is to decrease the monthly limit from 8 items to 6 items. This will take effect on November 1. We hope that this will help us manage the cost so that we can keep providing this great content!”

  6. “… loan the ebooks in what Eric Hellman colorfully named the Pretend It’s Print (PIP) model.”

    Because everyone would realise their true game if they admitted it was really the ‘pay per view’ model.

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Problem with Hoopla's Pay-Per-Loan Model | The Digital Reader
  2. HarperCollins unterzeichnet „E-Book-Leihe“-Vereinbarung mit Freading, Hoopla, OverDrive – AUTHORS CHOICE
  3. Paul Biba’s eBook, eLibrary, eMuseum and ePublishing news compilation for week ending Friday, June 30 | The Digital Reader
  4. HarperCollins' Audiobooks Now Available Though bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary | The Digital Reader

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