ALA turns to Congress as Macmillan ignores public call to reverse library e-book embargo
For Immediate Release
Assistant Director, Communications
Public Policy and Advocacy
WASHINGTON—Today Macmillan Publishers begins to limit access to e-books through America’s libraries by instituting an eight-week embargo on library e-book purchases. Despite robust public demand to reverse the policy, the publisher is moving ahead with its plan to limit sales to public libraries. Regardless the size of the library – from large library systems in Washington State and rural libraries in Rhode Island to entire statewide consortiums of small libraries such as in Wisconsin – Macmillan will sell only one copy of a new e-book title for the first two months after release.
On Wednesday, the American Library Association (ALA), with the Public Library Association (PLA) and other local and national allies, delivered nearly 160,000 petition signatures from all 50 states and Canada demanding fair and equitable access to digital content,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “We want a fair path forward for readers, libraries, authors and publishers. ALA urged the publisher to suspend the embargo, but Macmillan is determined to go through with the new policy.”
"On behalf of the Public Library Association and our diverse members across the country working to serve millions of Americans every day, I am disappointed and extremely upset Macmillan has ignored our collective voices," said PLA President Ramiro Salazar. “As we informed Macmillan CEO John Sargent and all of our members, we will continue to advocate and fight on multiple fronts for fair prices and terms that enable public libraries to meet our mission of ensuring equitable access to information and resources for all.”
In response to Macmillan’s decision, ALA will continue to collect signatures of those who oppose the embargo on ebooksforall.org and gather stories about how the e-book embargo is impacting communities. In addition to the public awareness campaign, ALA will deepen engagement with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
On October 24, the ALA released a report responding to an inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law that denounces embargoes by companies like Macmillan and 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 said.
“We had hoped to take Mr. Sargent at his word that he is open to admitting error in being the sole major U.S. publisher to block library e-book purchases,” 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. “Now we will turn our full attention to Congress and other policymakers at the national and state levels to right this wrong.”