eBook Lending & Pricing

Ebook reader on bookshelf

ALA welcomes cancellation of Macmillan embargo (March 17, 2020). Macmillan Publishers announced that it would return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on Oct. 31, 2019, effectively canceling the embargo on sales of new titles to libraries, a policy which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2019. American Library Association Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Alan Inouye made the following statement:

“Equitable access to digital content is more important than ever as libraries continue to serve their communities amid rapidly changing circumstances. Macmillan’s return to its original lending terms signals a new starting point for all publishers to consider how they can work with libraries to ensure—and expand—access for all readers. ALA looks forward to working with publishers to make that happen.”

In 2011, the American Library Association formed the Digital Content & Libraries Working Group, undertaking a coordinated effort across the library field (including Public Library Association member leaders) to advocate for access to eBooks for library lending by all major publishers. At the time, several publishers refused to sell at all while others were changing their licensing terms for libraries. By 2014, the last of the major publishers was offering complete access to their eBook catalog to libraries. Now, after several years of relative stability (though at high prices), publishers' eBook licensing terms for library lending are again shifting in disconcerting directions. ALA (and its divisions) has a longstanding commitment to ensuring all people have access to the world's knowledge through our nation's libraries, regardless of format. Many new models for library digital lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission—ensuring access to information for all.

Macmillan Publishers now allows libraries to purchase only one copy of each new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release. This embargo limits libraries’ ability to provide access to information for all, and particularly harms library patrons with disabilities or learning issues. One of the great things about eBooks is that they can become large-print books with only a few clicks, and most eBook readers offer fonts and line spacing that make reading easier for people who have dyslexia or other visual challenges. Because portable devices are light and easy to hold, eBooks are easier to use for some people who have physical disabilities. Macmillan is the only major publisher to propose such an embargo. Please visit the ALA Advocacy & Public Policy page on eBook lending for additional information.

Despite strong outcry from the library community and the general public, Macmillan Publishers moved forward with its library embargo of new eBook releases on Nov. 1, 2019. Immediately thereafter, ALA released a report urging lawmakers to curb anti-competitive practices of digital market actors. Submitted in response to an inquiry from the U.S. House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, the report underscores practices by companies like Amazon and Macmillan Publisherssuch as abusive pricing and restrictive licensing terms for librariesthat threaten Americans’ right to read what and how they choose and imperil other fundamental First Amendment freedoms. The report addresses publishers’ abusive pricing and restrictive licensing terms for libraries. Download the report (PDF, 7 pages). ALA is now asking library advocates to reach out to Congressional offices of Members on this Subcommittee only. If you reside in a Subcommittee member's district and are interested in joining this outreach effort, please contact Alan Inouye at ainouye@ala.org.

Join the #eBooksforAll campaign

PLA is calling on its members to join the fight against Macmillan Publishers' harmful new library eBook lending model. PLA and ALA have garnered nationwide support for the #eBooksForAll campaign, but we must keep the momentum going. PLA President Ramiro S. Salazar urges all public library professionals to sign the petition telling Macmillan that access to eBooks through libraries must not be denied or delayed. We hope you will also enlist library patrons, friends, and fellow readers to do the same. Other ways to get involved involved include sharing information with your followers on social media, submitting an op-ed to your local newspaper, and adding the petition link to your library's homepage. Visit eBooksForAll.org to learn more about Macmillan's eBook lending embargo and find tools to assist you in spreading the word within your community.

Campaign update webinar 12/17
PLA will host an #eBooksForAll Campaign Update webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 17, to outline planned next steps with Congress and data-gathering to build the library case, and specific actions public libraries can take to advance these efforts. The webinar is free, but registration is required and space is limited. Learn more and register.

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