Lamb, or How to Lose Money on an Ebook

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve been trying to download more books to my Nook, in preparation of going on a trip.

One of the books that I’ve been meaning to read is Christopher Moore’s Lamb, which has been repeatedly recommended to me.

I decided to buy an ebook copy of the book, which was originally published in 2002.

But wait!  The lowest price I could find, using Inkmesh, was $9.34.  For a book I could have picked up at a used bookstore for $2-3.

I changed my mind:  I no longer wanted to buy the book.  I went to the PPLD website to check out a paper copy of the book; they now have their ebooks listed in their regular catalogue.  Now, checking out ebooks from a library is a pain in the ass, because I haven’t done it that often, and because they haven’t got all the kinks worked out yet.  Nevertheless, fifteen minutes later I have a copy of the ebook on my Nook.

And had I been able to find a used copy – first sale rights only, bubba! – I would have done that before paying full price on that book, too.

Incidentally, Lamb is published by Harper Collins, which wants to limit the number of checkouts on a library ebook to 26 before their license expires and they have to buy a new copy of the book.


1) Company overcharges for ebook, almost a decade after it was originally published.

2) Company makes it difficult for customers to exercise their first sale rights, which is that customers may resell their property when they don’t want it anymore (via DRM, etc.).

3) Company makes it difficult for customers to access the books via the public library system.  (There is no real reason for OverDrive to have that double-download thing, where you have to download the software, the reader, the key, and then the book.  Pay sites don’t make you go through that crap.  I doubt the librarians enjoy having to explain the convoluted software, either.)

4) Company makes it difficult for libraries to afford to continue to provide the book by making them pay for popular books again and again.  It’s not like libraries can just lend out as many copies of the book as they feel like; they have to buy separate licenses for each copy that goes around.

I wanted to pay good money for this book, and now I won’t.

It makes me want to rush out and epublish something so I can donate copies to libraries.  “Here.  Have an open license to lend out as many copies as you want, as long as you want them, no DRM attached.”  Rushing out is probably not the answer…but I can’t imagine that giving libraries more freedom would cause me to sell fewer books.

Anyway, I sent an email to PPLD to try to find out how to do that; if I find out, I’ll pass it along.


Also, it’s a badge of honor if you have your library card number memorized. Hoo rah!


PPLD buys their ebooks exclusively through OverDrive.  I am contacting OverDrive for more info.  The policy of PPLD is not to collect self-published works unless “they are reviewed in established publications.”  There are exceptions for books that meet certain criteria for specific collections.  Also, “The criteria for materials selection also apply in the acceptance of gifts and donations of books and other materials,” which I take to mean that even if you give PPLD a self-published book for free, they probably won’t accept it for circulation; however, the book may go to the Friends of PPLD sales.

There is no national library database you can get into; you have to approach each library district on its own.

The librarian also sent an attachment on how to market your book to libraries; I’ll post it if I get permission.


More doppelgangers…


Writer’s Lessons, Writer’s Nightmares

1 Comment

  1. Great post, and excellent points! I will be interested to see what you find out about the lending option. I’ve wondered how to go about that myself.


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