The Seattle Public Library Prepares for Restrictive Macmillan E-books Embargo – Patrons Will Notice Impact Beginning Nov. 1
release date: 10/24/2019
With Macmillan Publishers’ Nov. 1 embargo on sales of new e-books to libraries rapidly approaching, The Seattle Public Library is bracing patrons for the change.
Under the new terms, public libraries — no matter their size — may purchase just one copy of a new Macmillan e-book with a perpetual license (meaning libraries can keep the title indefinitely) for two months. After the eight-week period, libraries can buy unlimited copies with a two-year license.
Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner said the Library will wait to buy the one allowed copy of new Macmillan e-books until the end of the embargo period to avoid inflated demand and long hold periods for patrons. After the embargo, the Library will buy additional e-book copies based on reader demand. The Library will still buy print and e-audiobook copies of new Macmillan titles, and may purchase additional copies in non-embargoed formats as needed.
Macmillan has drawn heavy criticism from public libraries and their supporters since it announced this restrictive plan in July. The Seattle Public Library has joined with public library systems, as well as with the American Library Association, in objecting to Macmillan’s e-book library embargo.
The Library decided not to fully boycott the publisher because having e-book titles in the collection is important for patrons with accessibility issues who rely on this format, as well as those on limited incomes.
“Library readers are angry, not just because of how this policy affects them, but because it hurts everyone,” Turner said. “We will continue to work toward a better deal for our patrons.”
The Library is using all its communications channels to inform Library readers of the upcoming change to Macmillan e-books and how it may affect them.
Macmillan is one of the five biggest publishers in the U.S. High-interest Macmillan titles that will be published after Nov. 1 include “In The Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado, “Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge” by Sheila Weller and “Jay-Z: Made in America” by Michael Eric Dyson.
Macmillan’s policy is part of a growing trend among the nation’s biggest publishers, claiming that library lending is decreasing their e-book sales, to charge public libraries higher prices for books in digital formats and to require licenses that expire after a certain number of circulations or period of time. The American Library Association, which has collected more than 145,000 signatures on a petition at ebooksforall.org, just released a report documenting how such practices limit libraries’ ability to deliver core services.
Studies have shown the role that public libraries play in marketing books and authors. Every year, The Seattle Public Library helps readers discover books through hundreds of free author events, book displays and book recommendations. In addition, the Library’s story times and other early literacy programs give children an early boost in becoming lifelong readers. The Library also spends $2.5 million on e-books and e-audiobooks a year.
“Our Library’s mission of providing access to information and ideas is compromised by Macmillan’s policy,” Turner said.
Seattle readers and writers can support libraries’ commitment to e-book access by signing the ALA petition, sharing about the policy on social media using the hashtag #EbooksforAll and writing directly to Macmillan at email@example.com. See ebooksforall.org for sharing tools and templates.
The Seattle Public Library circulated almost 3 million e-books and e-audiobooks last year, making it one of the leading public libraries in the world for digital lending.