American libraries are facing a “book battle” with MacMillan Publishers, Ltd. MacMillan is one of the big publishing houses from which libraries buy eBooks. In the past, libraries could buy several copies of new eBook releases. For example, a large library – like the Chicago Public Library – might purchase hundreds of copies of a new release. As of November 1, 2019, however, MacMillan decided to restrict sales of new eBook releases to one copy in the eight weeks after its release. Patrons’ wait time for a new eBook has grown exponentially, especially since the checkout period for a new book is between two to three weeks.
To protest this change, the American Library Association is petitioning MacMillan to rethink this strategy. Currently, they have gathered over 160,000 signatures. Libraries are charged up to five times more than the average retail price for an eBook, and now we are limited to the number that can be purchased. The economic goal for MacMillan, and potentially other publishers, is to get patrons to buy the retail copy of the book instead. What happens to those who are unable to afford a new eBook or just aren’t interested in owning a copy? What is the difference in a consumer purchasing a newly released eBook for $8.99 or the library buying the same copy at $54.99 to lend? The library, specifically, the taxpayer, still contributes to the sale of the eBook.
The fundamental principle of libraries is provide access to literature and information. This new restriction violates this principle. The St. Charles Public Library stands with the American Library Association, and we encourage our community members to post and/or tweet their thoughts using the #ebooksforall hashtag. Library systems across the country are boycotting the purchase of MacMillan
eBooks until a compromise is reached. We should be able to reach an agreement that serves both sides without putting patrons in the middle.
If you would like more information or want to sign the petition, please visit the American Library Association webpage at www.ala.org.
Edith Craig is director of the St. Charles Public Library District. The “Discover Your Library” column runs the second Thursday of each month. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.