One ebook is not enough, libraries say

Leach Public Library, Wahpeton, is against a proposal from Macmillan Publishers that would limit the amount of ebooks it could obtain once a new title is released.

North Dakota libraries, including the Leach Public Library in Wahpeton, are at odds with Macmillan Publishers.

Macmillan announced a new library ebook lending model that would take effect Friday, Nov. 1. When a new title is released, libraries would be able to purchase one copy in ebook format, the American Library Association stated. Following the purchase, Macmillan would place an eight-week embargo on additional copies of the title sold to libraries.

“Libraries typically purchase books in multiple forms: hard copies, ebooks and more,” Leach Public Library Director Melissa Bakken said. “They’re placing limits and I suspect it’s going to hit the e-community harder.”

The Leach Public Library is a member of the North Dakota “Library2Go” consortium, which offers digital media throughout the state. The local library is also a member of the North Dakota Library Association, which has joined with the North Dakota State Library to denounce Macmillan’s model.

“This policy will impact our library patrons by limiting their access to materials. Libraries play an important part in the publishing ecosystem by introducing readers to new authors, titles and formats,” the North Dakota Library Association stated.

John Sargent, Macmillan’s CEO, said the firm worked with libraries of all sizes for a year.

“(They sought) to solve the problem of libraries being so generous that they are killing sales for publishers and authors,” Information Today reported in August. “The cooperating libraries seemed fine with the policy, so Macmillan executives were surprised at the ferocity with which it was greeted by public libraries in general.”

Macmillan’s recent and upcoming releases include “The Devil’s Half Mile” by Paddy Hirsch, “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden and “The United States of Trump” by Bill O’Reilly.

“They’re going to find a fight from the library community,” Bakken said.

Macmillan’s proposal has been denounced by organizations including the American Library Association and the Public Library Association. Ramiro S. Salazar, president of the Public Library Association and director of the San Antonio Public Library, has launched the “#eBooksForAll” initiative.

“In San Antonio, (an embargo) means one new ebook for a library serving almost 2 million people at 30 locations,” Salazar said.

Because that’s the same number of copies a neighboring library system serving approximately 3,000 people would receive, American reported, Salazar considers Macmillan’s model neither fair nor equitable.

“(We’ve) seen the pendulum shift from publishers not selling to libraries at all to a relatively symbiotic relationship between the two,” American Library Association Executive Director Mary Ghikas said. “Now we see a movement toward restricted or delayed access to ebook content, and Macmillan’s proposed lending model is the most troubling example of this to date.”

The Leach Public Library only recently became aware of Macmillan Publishers’ plans, Bakken said. The North Dakota Library Association is urging library patrons throughout the state to contact the publishing firm.

“Libraries purchase titles in multiple formats to support their patrons and we encourage the publishing community to acknowledge our partnership with them by removing these harmful policies that limit access,” North Dakota Library Association President Maggie Townsend said.

Sargent, the Washington Post reported, said ebook library lending is growing rapidly and hurting sales.

“It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” Sargent wrote.

Readers interested in contacting Macmillan Publishers can do so by writing to 120 Broadway, New York City, New York, 10271; calling 646-307-5151; or contacting the firm on Twitter at @MacmillanUSA.

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