ALA uneasy about Simon & Schuster digital lending model changes

For Immediate Release
Tue, 07/02/2019


Alan Inouye

Senior Director, Public Policy and Government Relations

Public Policy and Advocacy

American Library Association

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Library Association (ALA) expressed unease about changes announced by Simon & Schuster (S&S) to its ebook and digital audio book lending model for libraries. These changes place a financial burden on public libraries and limit public access to library resources.

Effective Aug. 1, 2019, S&S will replace its perpetual access model for digital audio book lending with two-year access at prices ranging from $39.99 to $79.99.

“Eliminating perpetual access increases challenges to the long-term preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “Furthermore, a price point of as much as $79.99 for two-year access to one copy of an audio book is excessive and reduces public access.”

S&S, one of the “Big Five” publishers (S&S, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Penguin Random House), also announced that it will change its ebook lending model from one-year access to two-year access, with most titles for sale in the $38.99-to-$52.99 range. This move reduces flexibility and increases costs for public libraries.

ALA has ongoing concerns over library prices for ebooks and audio books among all Big Five publishers. For example, the consumer ebook price of “Mrs. Everything: A Novel” by Jennifer Weiner is $13.99—for perpetual access. Under the new model, libraries would pay between $38.99 and $52.99 for two-year access, subject to an additional payment for each subsequent two-year period.

ALA was pleased that S&S did not impose an embargo on sales of new ebook titles to libraries, as Macmillan did in July of 2018 with the Tor imprint.

“A critical and essential feature of the new S&S model is that the no-embargo policy is maintained,” said Brown. “When a new ebook is released in the consumer market, libraries must be able to obtain it at the same time. Otherwise, the public believes that we are not being responsive to their needs. Library access is especially important to those whose financial situation precludes purchasing ebooks. Readers are losing ground in the steady stream of digital licensing and lending changes.

“Libraries must have fair and equitable access to resources, regardless of format, that is predictable and sustainable,” said Brown. “In the months ahead, ALA will amplify its role in championing the valuable and essential role of libraries in the publishing ecosystem. For example, we are re-establishing the Digital Content Working Group to focus and bolster our efforts. Librarians across the country have increasing consternation about ebook access. The high prices and complexity across publishers are only growing.”