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Proposed Changes to eBook Access

eBook limitations for libraries are unacceptable.  On November 1, 2019, Macmilian Publisher’s plans to enact on eBook purchasing EMBARGO, which will limit libraries of any size to ONE eBook per title for the first 8 weeks after publication.  The embargo will increase wait times for your favorite author’s new releases.  EBook costs for libraries are excessive.  Publishers make up eBooks for libraries be as much as 300%.  EBook licensing for libraries is restrictive.  Libraries don’t purchase eBooks to keep.  Instead, libraries must renew eBook licensees after 24 months or a certain number of checkouts.  Libraries buy and promote books.  One out of two people purchase a book they first borrowed from the library (Library Journal Survey August 2019).  The number of people who later purchase another title by an author they discovered at the library is 76% (Library Journal Survey August 2019).

Even as popularity of digital content is growing, publishers continue to change their eBook purchasing policies for public libraries, usually to the detriment of customer access.

To restrict library availability of eContent, publishers use these techniques:   

  • Charging libraries higher prices for eContent titles.   

  • “Renting" to libraries for a limited time, meaning that PGCMLS pays for the same title over and over again in order to meet demand.       

  • Slightly delaying availability of the newest titles to libraries, in hopes that customers will instead purchase copies from for-profit entities such as Amazon.

In spite of these challenges, libraries have continued to purchase eContent because we believe in providing popular materials in as many formats as possible for our customers. However, one publisher has recently gone too far.

Under Macmillan’s new policy, beginning on November 1, 2019, libraries can only buy one copy of an ebook when it is first released to the public. After eight weeks, we are then allowed to purchase additional copies, at which point the wait list could be hundreds of customers long. Do you want to wait months and months to read the latest mystery by Louise Penny? If Macmillan’s policy had been in place already, we would have only one copy of A Better Man to share among the 35 (and growing) holds!

We have long considered ourselves partners with the publishing community. Libraries play by the rules.  We adhere to copyright laws and we are willing to pay fair prices for the content we purchase for you. Not only are we spending significant revenues on electronic content, but studies have found that borrowing eBooks and eAudiobooks actually leads to increased consumer sales for publishers, as customers find a new favorite author at their library and purchase future titles. Libraries want to purchase content from publishers and support the authors they represent, but Macmillan’s new policy needs to be rescinded so we can continue to effectively serve you.

The American Library Association, the Public Library Association, the Urban Libraries Council, and others across the country are speaking out. At Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, we are adding our voice to this growing movement to say “Enough is enough!”.  

We need your voice as well. This policy shift acts as an attack on the very mission of the library. We urge you to contact Macmillan to express your concerns about this recent purchasing policy decision, which limits your access to eContent.


Macmillan Publishers

Mr. John Sargent, CEO

120 Broadway

New York, New York 10271

(800) 221-7945

For more information

ALA in collaboration with Overdrive are starting a 'Libraries Transform Book Pick' which will include unlimited check outs of selected eBooks for a designated time frame. The first title will be "After The Flood" by Kassandra Montag and will be available on Overdrive from 10/7-10/21 for unlimited users/check outs.