On March 17, 2020, Macmillan abandoned its embargo on new eBook releases in libraries. MacMillan CEO John Sargent wrote in a memo, “There are times in life when differences should be put aside.” The memo continued, “Effective on Friday (or whenever thereafter our wholesalers can effect the change), Macmillan will return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times. Stay safe.”
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September 20, 2019: Do you get free eBooks from your library? Macmillan Publishers, one of the largest U.S. publishers, is restricting their sales of eBooks to all libraries beginning November 1, 2019. Libraries will only be allowed to purchase one copy of a new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book's release. Limiting a library's ability to purchase eBooks, when consumers have no such embargo, is discriminatory against libraries and library patrons.
What does that mean for you as a patron? Longer waitlist times could force library patrons to wait months or years to read new eBooks. The embargo also means that libraries can no longer provide unrestricted access to information for everyone. By limiting the number of eBooks a library can purchase, Macmillan restricts authors from having their books discovered by readers, which means less new authors and books for you to discover and enjoy.
Macmillan's embargo also hurts patrons who cannot come to the library and patrons with learning disabilities or visual impairments. These patrons will be more limited in the library services they receive. Portable e-reading devices are lightweight and are often easier for patrons with physical disabilities to hold. Patrons with visual impairment or learning disabilities can adjust font sizes, line spacing contrast and text fonts, like dyslexic fontopens a new window, on e-readers to customize their reading experience. You can't do that with a physical book but you can do all of that with an eBook.
Why is Macmillan limiting libraries from purchasing eBooks? Macmillan believes that when library patrons check out an eBook from the library, Macmillan loses money. Macmillan CEO John Sargent wrote that library lending is "cannabalizing [their] salesopens a new window." But research shows that library loaning also encourages book sales; up to 60% of library usersopens a new window report buying a book by an author they first discovered in a library. (Did you know that 45% of Macmillian's eBook salesopens a new window comes from libraries?)
How does a library purchase eBooks? Libraries can pay up to five times more than a consumer pays for an eBook, and the library does not own the book; it's more like a lease: Macmillan's purchasing policyopens a new window is that a library must repurchase an eBook title every two years or once the book has been checked out 52 times. Now imagine a library that serves thousands or millions of patrons allowed to only purchase a single copy of a new book from Macmillan. That isn't enough to meet the demand.
When a library purchases a print book, and libraries can purchase as many print books as they need to meet demand, the library can choose what to do with it. A print book can be sold or loaned to other libraries for patrons to read. An eBook cannot be loaned to another library. An eBook cannot be resold. An eBook and print book feel like the same thing in different formats, but they are very different products for a library.
What if I purchase an eBook instead of borrowing it from the library? Read the fine print before purchasing an eBook as you may not actually own the book. You've most likely bought the right to use the contentopens a new window under the retailer's terms. If a retailer decides to stop selling eBooks, like Microsoft did, readers lose access to the books they have purchased. Ever wonder why you can't read a Nook book on your Kindle or vice versa? That's part of digital rights management. Not every eBook is sold with DRM protectionsopens a new window, but many are.
Is this censorship? Yes. Macmillan's embargo of new books censors library patrons—that's you—from reading what you want. Arapahoe Libraries is committed to your freedom to read and "does not endorse censorship and does not permit individuals or groups to impose their own standards...upon the community at large." Arapahoe Libraries is committed to your freedom to view, "[as] protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In a free society, there is no place for censorship of any medium of expression." The American Library Association and Arapahoe Libraries believes that "all information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users."
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