Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dennis Lehane, the library, & Sleuthfest!

If you're not going to Sleuthfest and you'd love to meet Dennis Lehane, swing on by the Hagen Ranch Road Library Friday night (3/4/11) at 6:30 p.m. for Wine & Words with Dennis Lehane. It's $30 at the door and you get two glasses of wine, some snacks and best of all, a chance to rub elbows with Dennis Lehane! Murder on the Beach Bookstore will be there selling books and the author will also be speaking and signing those books! For more information: Writers Live!

Dennis Lehane is also the guest of honor at this year's Sleuthfest, and the following is an interview they did with him:

"So much of learning to write involves one step forward and two steps back-but failure's okay."

Dennis Lehane has built a writing career that most writers dream of. He has published nine critically acclaimed novels, including his most recent release, MOONLIGHT MILE, and the New York Times bestsellers GONE, BABY, GONE; MYSTIC RIVER; SHUTTER ISLAND; and THE GIVEN DAY. His novels have been translated into over 30 languages. Three of his novels have already been made into major motion pictures. Two of his short stories are currently being adapted into feature films. He has written for several television programs, including THE WIRE, and is now busy developing an original pilot for F/X and gearing up to both write the screenplay for and executive produce (along with George Pelecanos) a movie for HBO. Somehow, he still finds time to teach creative writing at Eckert College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It's an understatement to say we're very fortunate to have him as a Guest of Honor for SleuthFest 2011. In the third of our interview series leading up to this year's conference, Joanna Campbell Slan once again put on her interviewer's hat and asked Dennis to share his thoughts about his writing process and career.

Q: You wrote a book in three weeks and tossed it in a box. Then you revised it, and it became A DRINK BEFORE WAR. Tell us about that revision. What had you learned since writing the book that helped you turn it into such a power house of a novel?

A: It went through so many revisions I lost count. The first draft had Patrick's voice and most of the plot structure. That was it, though. In terms of language or depth, it was execrable. First drafts are often like that for me.

Q: You teach writing. What's the one thing you tell your students over and over that no one believes? What do you wish you had heard as a novice writer?

A: If you can't tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as a clearly established main character who takes an active role in that story, then all the pretty prose and wink-wink allusions and meta playfulness will not save you. The other side of that coin is that if all you have is some high-concept plot but you forgot to attach it to three-dimensional characters, depth of language and depth of insight, all you really have is wrapping paper over an empty box. You don't have a novel, at least not as I define one.

Q: Expand, please, on these sentences from an interview with you: Accident or not, Lehane has kept a firm hand on the professional aspects of his writing as well as the creative, understanding as he does the reverberations that a small thing can have on an entire career. "Where you enter the ladder," says Lehane in relation to a writing career, "I think, indicates how far you're going up it."

A: The key missing word here is "can." Where you enter the ladder can indicate how far you're going up it. And, yes, I feel it's better to enter the game with a strong hand. I wanted my first book to be published by a major New York publisher in hardcover. I felt if I were published by a small press and/or as a paperback original, I'd have that much more ground to cover. Several friends of mine did start with paperback originals and went on to considerable success--Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman spring immediately to mind-so what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander. It's all relative. My way is just my way, it's not the way.

Q: Do you keep a journal? You've said, "There's the idea that any incident reverberates, anything that happens in your life. The smallest thing. So if the smallest thing reverberates, then the biggest thing has a consequence." How do you track those small incidents?

A: In my head. Journals and I just don't work.

Q: How is the real world the enemy of the writer? What can we do about this?

A: Wordsworth has a phrase, "the world is too much with us," which I think applies as much to our era as it did to his. Which is also to say the world was always thus. Writers always had to fight the intrusion of the real world into their creative life and the intrusion of the creative into their domestic life. It's a balancing act. Those who balance it best, tend to have writing careers. Those who don't, don't. Like most things about the profession, there's no easy fix, no magic pill, no instruction manual. You just have to find your way, knowing that many others have come before you and confronted the same dilemmas. So at the very least, you can find comfort in knowing you're not alone.

Q: Many of us who write mysteries want to see justice prevail. In your books, right does not always win out, or at least enjoy a happy ending. In some ways, you seem to be following in the footsteps of Patricia Highsmith with THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY because your characters do commit murder, and yet we cheer for them. Comment on that.

A: I hope you're not cheering for murder in my books. That would suck. Yikes. Otherwise, at the end of the day, if I have to be pigeon-holed, I'll accept that I'm a noirist. And most people who write noir seem to think justice does not prevail. Or, if it does, it's a very relative thing. We've just had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and everybody of reasonable intelligence knows exactly who's responsible. And yet not only are those people not in jail, they've gone back to engaging in the same practices which led to the meltdown. Meanwhile, we blather on about taxes, birth certificates, border fences and all sorts of odious sound and fury, fiddling while Rome burns. And I'm to believe that justice, in such a world, prevails? Doesn't mean you stop fighting for justice, though. Which is a paradox, yes, but paradoxes are dramatic gold.

Q: Tell us about depth of language. How can you teach that? How can a writer improve this skill?

A: If you don't have it naturally, read for it. You'll take some missteps of course-so much of learning to write involves one step forward and two steps back-but failure's okay. There are some writers who are well-known for their language. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Martin Amis, and Cormac McCarthy. So read those people and emulate them. At some point, your own voice will bubble up.

Q: Tell us about epiphanic moments in your books. Since you don't outline, how do you make sure these happen?

A: I was trained to look for epiphanies. I mean, that was the whole point. A novel is about the moment when a character learns something about himself and/or the world at large that he didn't realize before. The moment when Othello realizes he "threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe" for vanity or when C.W. in THE LAST GOOD KISS realizes his own inability to truly see women has kept him from seeing the truth in front of his face from about the third chapter on-those are the moments I read for. So they're the moments I write for.

Q: You admire Edith Wharton, and her HOUSE OF MIRTH brought destruction to a woman's life through a whisper campaign. As a society we are fixated on physical violence, but you also use emotional violence as a catalyst in your books. What techniques do you employ so that emotional violence seems as real as physical violence?

A: I have no idea. (It should be obvious by now that I don't speak to process well. Sorry. What I find so appealing in Wharton is how she gets at the ways tribes use whatever's at their disposal to eradicate any person or thing they perceive as a threat to the tribe's primacy. That's a pretty noir concept, because in noir the individual who goes against the machine is usually destroyed. Think Harry Fabian in NIGHT AND THE CITY or Eddie Coyle in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. What's hopeful in noir and in Edith Wharton novels is that the hero tries to break from the pack. That alone is a life-affirming concept.


Our Friday night movie this year is GONE, BABY, GONE, based on the novel of the same name, to be followed by a discussion with our SleuthFest Guest of Honor Dennis Lehane. On Saturday, Dennis will be our Saturday lunch Keynote Speaker, and in the afternoon he will participate on two panels: "Characters Who Withstand the Test of Time" and "Making History." In the afternoon, join him poolside for a discussion of GONE, BABY, GONE, the novel. Finally, in a not-to-be missed session on Sunday morning, reviewer Oline Cogdill will interview Dennis and Neil S. Nyren (Senior VP, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of G.P. Putnam's Sons) about the publishing industry, writing, and the mystery genre.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Michael Palmer, Daniel Palmer, Meg Gardiner, the library, & Sleuthfest!

and did I mention Dennis Lehane?!!

I am just thrilled that these fabulous authors will be visiting our local libraries. They are all in town for Sleuthfest, the annual convention of the Mystery Writers of America. It starts Thursday and runs though the weekend at the Deerfield Beach Hilton. Go to the Sleuthfest page if you'd like to sign up.

If you can't go, then maybe you'd like to stop by one of our Boca Raton libraries to meet these terrific authors. On Wednesday, March 2, at 2:00 p.m. the Glades Road Library will be hosting both Michael Palmer, author of A HEARTBEAT AWAY, which just came out, and his son, Daniel Palmer, whose first novel, DELIRIOUS, came out a couple of weeks ago.

Meg Gardiner has made time out of her busy schedule to swing by the West Boca Branch Library this Thursday, March 3, at 2:00 p.m. This is a rare U.S. appearance for the American living in London.

If you'd like to sign up for either of these events, or for the Dennis Lehane cocktail party/fundraiser on Friday, March 4 at 6:30 pm at the Hagen Ranch Road Library in Delray Beach, it's easy & all online here: Writers Live!

I received this terrific interview with Meg Gardiner, courtesy of Sleuthfest - and if you are not familiar with her work, after reading this you will want to be!

Questions and answers with Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner
February 2011

Time is running out!
Register NOW for SLEUTHFEST 2011!
March 3 - 6
Deerfield Beach, FL

"Writers are troublemakers. It's our job to give readers heartburn."

A common question posed by aspiring writers is: How do I get published? Every published author has a story, but the plot to Meg Gardiner's "big break" story is as twisted and surprising as any you might read in a mystery novel.

In the second of our interview series leading up to SleuthFest 2011, Joanna Campbell Slan interviewed Meg and asked her, among other things, about her publishing journey. It's an interview you won't want to miss, and it's just a small taste of the great information you'll be privy to at SleuthFest. Haven't registered yet? What are you waiting for?

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford law school. She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her novel CHINA LAKE won the 2009 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original. THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008. Meg lives with her husband, Paul Shreve, and their three children near London. LIAR'S LULLABY is her eighth novel.

Q: CHINA LAKE has non-stop action. What's your process? Do you outline or use any format? Since it was your debut book, what did you learn by writing it that you now use regularly?

A: Nonstop action - glad it seems so. The characters actually go to a museum and play soccer on the beach in between being chased by violent religious fanatics. So if the action feels nonstop, I'll fist-pump that the plot succeeds in maintaining suspense. I outline because that's the only way I can keep from becoming hopelessly lost and entangled in a story. Outlining allows me to build a plot, to make it coherent, and to keep it from wallowing or wandering. What did I learn by writing China Lake? I was powerfully determined to get it published, so I wrote and rewrote and turned the plot inside out and, whenever I saw a straight, flat stretch of story, I attacked it again to twist it, layer it, or add surprises and emotional complexity. I threw everything in. I ripped out the kitchen sink and pitched it into the plot, then tore the pipes from the wall and tossed them in too. I don't feel the need to do that anymore. But in CHINA LAKE, it seems to have worked.

As for what I now use regularly: if I find myself writing a scene where a character mulls, reflects, ponders, or muses - while nothing else happens - I cut it. That's not actually a scene. It's place-holding, or self-indulgence. Out it goes. Back to the action.

Q: It's every beginning author's dream to be noticed by a big name. You were singled out by Stephen King. Tell us how that happened so we can fantasize about it more accurately!

A: It was serendipity. Several years back, Stephen King was packing for a book tour to the UK. Looking for a novel to read on his flight, he opened a box of books his British publisher had sent him. He pulled out CHINA LAKE. I wish I could say he read the first paragraph and felt overwhelmed by the prose. But he decided that the print was large enough for comfortable reading on a long flight. So he took the book along. And by the time he landed in London, he'd finished it. He asked our British publisher who published me in America. The answer was nobody. For me, at the time, this was hugely frustrating. After all, I'm a Californian. I happened to be living in London because my husband's job had been transferred there. And I was excited that a British publisher was putting out the Evan Delaney series. But as an American, I keenly wanted to be published in my own country. However, after five books in the series, and translation into a number of foreign languages, American publishers had said no to all of my novels. Over and over. And over.

Mr. King read my entire series, and liked it. Then, because he's extraordinarily generous and supportive of other writers, he posted an article on his website urging readers to seek out my books. And, to my everlasting joy and gratitude, he wrote a column in Entertainment Weekly saying I deserved to be published in the U.S. and telling people to read the Evan Delaney series. Within 48 hours, fourteen American publishers had contacted me. Two weeks later, I had a contract with Dutton. They signed up the Jo Beckett series, which I was just developing, and their Penguin sibling, NAL, published the Evan Delaney novels. CHINA LAKE was finally published in the U.S. in 2008. In 2009 it won the Edgar for Best Paperback Original.

Q: Jesse is the male protagonist in CHINA LAKE. He's in a wheelchair. Unlike Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme, you were very specific about how he could/could not have sex. You also cover how someone in a wheelchair is received in daily life. How did you research this? Why did you decide to make Jesse less mobile? How do you make sure that he isn't a passive character?

A: Jesse Blackburn is a young man who had the world at his feet: He was a world-class athlete, a star student, an All-American with a brilliant career laid out ahead of him. Then he was run down by a hit-and-run driver and left for dead. I did that to put an irreparable crack in the characters' lives, and in the story. I wanted Jesse and Evan to live with the effects of violent crime, in a way that would never disappear. They can't ignore it or forget about it. It's always there. So the story is about how they deal with the physical and emotional consequences. It's about how Jesse rebuilds his life, and they build their relationship, in the aftermath.

But the point is that life does go on. As Evan says, Jesse learns how to navigate the world without walking it. And, physically, he's not completely disabled - he can walk, with difficulty. He gets around. And there's no chance Jesse could be a passive character, because that ain't his personality - he's cocky and sarcastic, a hotshot lawyer who drives too fast and who hates to back down from anything. Plus he's young, strong, and determined to find a way to do whatever he wants. Where'd he come from? From the way I've seen friends and family handle tragedies and challenges in their lives. From the way that, after a heavy blow, people get back up and keep going. I not only did a lot of research and reading, but also talked to people about how using a wheelchair affects their lives (and how able bodied folks sometimes react to them). They were generous enough to share their experiences with me. Bottom line: living an active life is about character, not the ability to jump.

Q: Evan and Jo, your female protagonists, both have gender neutral names. Why? You chose very romantic names for your male protagonists, and the couples have a rich romantic life yet your books are clearly suspense. How do you juggle both the romance and the suspense elements?

A: Evan is a middle name - her first name is Kathleen - and Jo is short for Johanna. I chose gender neutral names partly because frilly names just struck me as silly for thriller heroines. Partly because they're girls next door, with a bit of tomboy and outdoorswoman in them, and I wanted that to come across. As for the guys in their lives - well, these are women who live to the full, and I wanted them to have partners and families. Evan and Jo aren't broken detectives. They're not alcoholic, or abused, or ruining their relationships by devoting themselves obsessively to their jobs. It's more fun that way, for me, and for them.

The novels are suspense, first and last. They aren't boy-meets-girl, or will-they, won't-they. The romance in the stories grows out of the characters' lives. So it's deep, sometimes risky, and worth fighting for. As it is for all of us.

Q: People look at Jo and wonder, "What is she?" Meaning, they wonder about her heritage. In Jo's profession, she looks into peoples' pasts and wonders, "Who were they?" That sense of identity seems to be very important to you. Tell us about it.

A: Jo performs psychological autopsies to find out whether a victim's death is suicide, accident, or murder. Her job is to unearth the victim's history, and to piece together a jigsaw of the victim's life into a whole picture that illuminates the circumstances of their death. She asks: Who was this person? What goes on in the human heart? In her job, this is more important than dry stains on a lab slide. Understanding the victim's identity is crucial to uncovering the truth. Learning "Who were they?" allows her to find out how they died. Jo happily calls herself "pure California mutt." She's got Irish, Japanese, and Egyptian ancestry. She loves all aspects of her heritage, even when her family's arguing during Christmas dinner. But of course she's aware that she doesn't look like a 1950s poster for Susie Wonderbread. And in America we're fascinated, for good and ill, by people's ethnicity and heritage. But Jo is the increasingly typical California girl. She's who I see, more and more, when I look at my own family.

Q: You are an ex-pat. How has that had an influence on your writing? Or has it? How do you balance writing and being a wife and mother? What's your schedule like? How do you keep your writing time sacred? Or do you?

A: Being an ex-pat has taught me that we live in a big world. What we consider to be "the way it is" sometimes turns out to be just a local attitude. When you get out of your own little neighborhood you meet people who see things from a different vantage point. And that's enlightening. In my writing, it's made me careful to explain American terms and customs for an international audience. I can't expect readers in Amsterdam to know that CHP stands for California Highway Patrol, or that "Red or green?" refers to my heroine's choice of salsa. The big thing I learned is that people in Britain consider California to be exotic. I thought Santa Barbara was an ordinary place to grow up, but my English friends pictured it as Baywatch - all bikinis and jet skis and automatic weapons. And hey, I was more than happy to write stories set in a world I love, and that they find fascinating.

As for my schedule, I write every day, come high water, snakebite, or my mother-in-law. Once my kids started school, it got simple: the school bus came at 7:55 a.m., and returned at 3:45 p.m. Those were the hours when I could write. I thought it was perfect. However, once, while under deadline pressure, I opened my office door to find that the kids had taped a note to it: "Warning - she eats her young."

Q: In CHINA LAKE, you captured the voice of religious extremism in a pitch-perfect way. How did you manage it without getting clich├ęd or too weird to be believable?

A: At the time I thought I was exaggerating for effect. But looking around now, much of what I wrote about the Remnant (the Bring-on-Armageddon sect in the book) could be dropped into a news broadcast without anybody batting an eye.

When I first imagined the story, I had in mind the radical violence of the Oklahoma City bombing. But today, when we hear "terrorist attack," we more or less assume it has been launched in the name of religion. Meanwhile, on the nasty 'n' wacko front, we've got the Westboro Baptist "Church" picketing the funerals of soldiers. There are billboards of a buffed-out Jesus ripping himself off the cross, like a WWF superstar, with the tagline: "You drew first blood, but I'll be back." And last week, a self-proclaimed "bible prophecy expert" joined Glenn Beck on his national television show, on what's ostensibly a news network, to warn America that we may be in the End Times, and that Islam thinks the Antichrist is a good guy. The phrase "wet my pants" was used. Too weird? What's that?

Q: There are a handful of attorneys who write suspense and mystery, including Jeffery Deaver, Jamie Freveletti, and Steve Berry. What is it about being an attorney that prepares someone for writing suspense and mystery?

A: Attorneys have experience writing persuasive documents. It's their job to convince the court, in the teeth of zealous opposition, that their client's case is just. And all legal cases are stories.

Every court case is a narrative. It's a tale of conflict - of something going desperately wrong between people. And it's the attorney's job to frame her client's case in the most compelling way possible, to convince a judge or jury of its merits.

Of course, in a novel, unlike a court case, the author can guarantee that the story ends the way she wants. Or maybe attorneys are natural fibbers. As my son said, aged four: "Lawyer, lawyer, pants on fire."

Q: Gabe has a daughter and Evan is devoted to her young nephew. Someone once told me there's a "rule" against having kids in mysteries because the kids should never be in danger. (I broke that rule, and you have, too.) Any thoughts about how children as characters? They certainly do humanize your other characters. Do you ever worry about putting them in danger?

A: I'm glad I never heard of such a rule. I wrote Luke, Evan's six-year-old nephew, into the heart of the story before I ever dealt with publishing do's and don'ts. And in fact my first editor told me the opposite - she encouraged me to include children in my novels precisely because they humanize the surrounding characters. And I'm a mom of three. With a house full of kids, it seemed completely realistic to include youngsters in my stories.

Sometimes I worry about putting children in trouble in my books - it can be nerve-racking, oppressive, or disturbing. I have never written about abuse or shown children suffering. But writers are troublemakers. It's our job to give readers heartburn, to keep them biting their nails and flipping the pages to see what happens to all these delightful characters who are at such risk. And I don't actually put children in danger. Only on the page.

Friday Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner will speak during lunch on Friday, March 4, in the Grand Ballroom and will be on several panels throughout the weekend. On Friday afternoon at poolside, she'll participate in a book discussion moderated by Stephanie Levine of Murder on the Beach Bookstore about the award-winning China Lake. Don't miss it!

CLICK HERE to register for SleuthFest or, if you've already registered but would like to add Third Degree Thursday to your registration, contact Sharon Potts at

March 3 - 6, 2011
Deerfield Beach, Florida at the Hilton Deerfield Beach/Boca Raton

CLICK HERE to go to the SleuthFest website.

Become a SleuthFest fan on Facebook too!

Rap Sheet Editor
Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter

Monday, February 28, 2011

Best Buy

It seems to me that lots of people use the internet as a way to vent. They take to the blogosphere to complain about bad service, bad products, bad experiences. I want to go the other way.

Last summer we switched cell phone service to another company, but instead of buying the phones directly from the cell phone provider or online, we went to Best Buy. We had T-Mobil but they didn't have a tower near my home or something because we couldn't use our phones in the house and they didn't work at my daughter's school, either. When our contract was up, we switched to Sprint.

We bought our phones at Best Buy. Their prices were better than the cell phone provider store and their staff seemed to know what they were doing more than the staff at the other store. Plus they had live demo models that they just handed us to try out while we shopped. It was a really unusual experience. We went out for dinner and afterwards we went to the Best Buy near the restaurant, signed up for a family plan, bought four phones, took out the Best Buy service plan on mine and my daughter's phones and went home. We were the ones who always had phone problems. I hate to admit it but my husband and my son take much better care of their phones than we do.

My family all got Androids and I decided to try one too. But I have long nails which precludes me from using a touch screen easily. I found it very frustrating, and the phone wouldn't sync with my email. It just wasn't working for me so the next day I went to the Best Buy around the corner from my house and returned my phone. I was a little anxious about it, the return line was always long and slow moving. But I didn't have to get in that line, I just had to take it back to the cell phone department.

While I waited for someone to help me, I noticed that the phones my family had bought the night before were half the price at this store. A few minutes later I was waited on, and with no fuss at all a credit was applied to my account for my family's phones and I swapped my Android for a new Blackberry. All was good.

About 5 weeks later I noticed my battery started running out by midday. It was driving me nuts, I wasn't doing anything different than I ever did with my phone and I couldn't figure it out. I called Sprint and they said it sounded like the battery may be defective. They had me make an appointment at a Sprint service center half an hour away for the next night. Instead, I went back to Best Buy. They showed me how to check and see what programs I had running and it turned out that the UberTwitter app was constantly updating and the bluetooth was seeking and I don't remember what else but they cleared it up for me. I told them what Sprint had said about the battery and they told me that the warranty on batteries was only 30 days, and that had passed. With my service plan I got one free battery but I didn't think that I should have to use it a mere 5 weeks after purchase!

The tech who was helping me talked to the manager. Next thing I knew they opened up a new Blackberry and pulled the battery for me. Then they told me that it never happened and have a nice day.

Over the Christmas holidays my daughter told me her phone kept crashing. We went to Best Buy and a nice young man named Kevin helped us. He took her phone and found that she had over 5000 text messages stored on it. That was causing the crashing. He had to clear off some games, downloaded some apps to help clear it up and literally spent three hours working on her phone. She went off to play video games while I sat and read on my Kindle. He got her phone working and we were on our way. I was impressed with his patience, but especially with his kindness. Plus he explained what he had done and how she should take care of her phone to avoid another problem.

While he was working on her phone, I mentioned that I was having a little problem with my phone, nothing major, just that the "Y" key was a bit sticky. He worked on that for a little bit and it seemed better when we left. But a few weeks later and the "Y" was sticking again and I finally took the phone back in on my day off last weekend.

A nice young girl named Allison helped me. Again I sat reading my Kindle while she worked on my phone. Next thing I knew she was asking me for my drivers' license and home phone number and reams of paper were coming out of the register. I asked her what she was doing and she said I'm giving you a new phone. I was amazed - a new phone because one key was sticky? Really? Brand new. Unbelievable.

The Best Buy service option was about the same price as the plan from Sprint, but it covered so much more. And boy has it paid off.

So hats off to Best Buy in Boca Raton. Your techs are awesome, they are kind and patient and smart. Your service plan really works the way us customers imagine that it would, but usually doesn't.

Bottom line? I wouldn't buy a cell phone anywhere else.

And for the record, I do not work for Best Buy, I don't know anyone at Best Buy, I am not a stockholder and I have absolutely no motive to share my story other than the fact that I can. It makes me feel good to do something nice for a store that has been so good to me.

Boycott HarperCollins

For Immediate Release


Library Users, Librarians, and Libraries Boycott HarperCollins Over Change in Ebook Terms

New York, NY -- Library users, librarians, and libraries have begun to boycott publisher HarperCollins over changes to the terms of service that would limit the ability of library users to borrow ebooks from libraries. A new website,, is helping to organize their efforts to get HarperCollins to return to the previous terms of service.

On February 24, Steve Potash, the Chief Executive Officer of OverDrive, sent an email to the company's customers -- primarily US libraries -- announcing that some of the ebooks they get from OverDrive would be disabled after they had circulated 26 times. Soon after, librarians learned that it was HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corporation (NWSA), that intended to impose these limits. Immediately, library users, librarians, and libraries began voicing their opposition to the plan by HarperCollins, with several library users and librarians urging a boycott.

As Joe Atzberger, of Columbus, Ohio, one of the first librarians to address the issue, wrote on his Atzblog:

"The previous model already forced libraries to pretend a digital 'copy' was a single physical thing. Only one library's user can have it 'checked out' at a time. And only on one device. The clearly misapplied language around this tells you what a terrible idea it is. To be clear, this model eliminates almost all the major advantages of the item's being digital, without restoring the permanence, durability, vendor-independence, technology-neutrality, portability, transferability, and ownership associated with the physical version."

Information on this grassroots campaign can be reached via a website that went online on February 27, 2011, The boycott will end as soon as HarperCollins agrees not to limit the number of times a library can loan each ebook.

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