ALA delivers #eBooksForAll Petition, with 160,000+ Signatures, to Macmillan Publishers

For Immediate Release
Wed, 10/30/2019


Shawnda Hines

Asst. Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office

Library leaders, publishers meet to discuss growing opposition to library e-book embargo as Congress undertakes inquiry

NEW YORK – Today American Library Association (ALA) leaders, members and supporters delivered a petition with nearly 160,000 signatures to Macmillan Publishers CEO John Sargent, urging him to reverse the new policy that will limit libraries’ access to e-books. Signed by readers, authors, library staff and patrons from all 50 states, the #eBooksForAll petition demands that library access to e-books not be delayed or denied. 

ALA President Wanda Brown said, "The mission of public libraries across the country is to ensure access to information and content for all, but Macmillan’s e-book restrictions will drastically restrict our ability to serve millions of readers. Libraries, publishers and authors should be allies - not adversaries - in expanding the number of readers and encouraging the exploration of new titles and subjects.”

Hours before ALA’s planned petition delivery and meeting with Macmillan leaders, Sargent issued a letter to librarians. The letter, Sargent’s first direct communication with libraries about the embargo since it was announced in July 2019, misrepresents ALA’s longstanding and good-faith efforts to equitably balance the rights and privileges of readers, libraries, authors, and publishers.

“Macmillan remains the sole Big 5 publisher that perceives a business need to limit libraries’ ability to purchase and lend eBooks,” said Alan Inouye, ALA’s senior director of public policy and government relations and one of ALA’s lead negotiators with publishers on library access to digital content. “ALA has frequently requested but never received data or analysis that demonstrates that library lending undermines book sales. It is simply false to state otherwise.”

When the new policy goes into effect November 1, the publisher will limit library purchases to only one copy of each new e-book title for the first eight weeks after its release. Additional copies will then be available for two years of access at a cost that is often more than quadruple consumer prices.

“Libraries want to provide readers with a range of options that will inform, educate and enlighten,” said Ramiro S. Salazar, president of the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of ALA, and director of the San Antonio Public Library. ”As demand for digital content grows, we cannot idly accept Macmillan’s new e-book policy. Offering only one new e-book in San Antonio, for a library serving almost 2 million people at 30 locations, will deny timely access, extend patron wait times to the extreme and discourage readership.”

Joining Inouye to deliver the petition were PLA Executive Director Barb Macikas, Loida Garcia-Febo, ALA Immediate Past President; Sari Feldman, ALA policy fellow and past ALA president;  Tim Cherubini, executive director, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA); Caroline Ashby, director, Nassau Library System; and Angie Miraflor, director of customer experience at Brooklyn Public Library. Launched on September 11, 2019, the petition has attracted signatories from across the US and Canada, with the most signatures coming from Ohio, Oregon, Texas, New York and California.

According to a new report publicly released on October 24 by ALA, current practices by content publishers and distributors in digital markets limit libraries’ ability to deliver core services. The ALA report, submitted in response to an inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, calls out embargos by companies like Macmillan Publishers as well as Amazon, who refuses to sell any of its published content to libraries. Such restrictions 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. Over the past 10 years, libraries have spent more than $40 billion acquiring e-books, as well as streaming music and audiovisual content from publishers. For popular e-book titles, libraries pay up to five times the consumer list price and, unlike the individual, libraries typically have access to an e-book title for only two years.

“If John Sargent cannot or will not hear us, we will continue to take action with our community leaders and patrons, with Congress, with state legislators and attorneys general, and with publishers and authors who view libraries as allies rather than adversaries,” Brown concluded.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders.