Libraries right in resisting Macmillan’s e-book changes

The company claims libraries have undercut their e-book profit, but this misses the point of public libraries.

If you have ever rented an eBook from a library, then you should be concerned about new restrictions being placed on libraries access to digital titles. On Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers, one of the largest publishers in the U.S., has announced that it will impose new limits on libraries purchasing eBooks.

For new releases, they will only allow libraries to purchase one copy for the first eight weeks. This means that popular titles that like Stephen King or James Patterson novels will have long waits for readers wanting to access those titles.

In addition, after the first eight weeks, if libraries would like to purchase additional digital copies, then they will have to pay double the cost of the first copy. The extra copies will then expire after two years. So, two years later, libraries will have to decide if it is in their budget to keep the copies.

Macmillan Publishers cites their reasons for adding these restrictions on digital titles for libraries as competition. They say that libraries are undercutting their profits, because people would rather read them for free than purchase them. What this ultimately means for readers is less access to library content.

With these restrictions, if a reader waiting for a novel wants to read it as soon as it comes out to avoid spoilers, they must purchase it instead of gaining free access through their library.

However, what Macmillan is ignoring with these new stipulations is the new readers that libraries gain for them. As an avid reader, I frequent the library, their physical locations as well as their digital titles. For this reason, I have been exposed to many more authors because I had access to free books than I would have had if I had to pay for those books.
Taking away that access forces readers to make a choice, either wait for the book, which they may not care about 24 weeks later when they get the book, or buy the book. This choice puts people with lower income in a bind, who may love to read but do not have the money to buy the books they really want. In addition, it hurts students who are using libraries for research and who might not have the funds to buy the book they need.
As someone who reads a lot, I will purchase books that I really care about without reading them first. However, if there is a book I think I might like or an author I have heard about, I prefer to read it from the library first since I have limited funds. Then if I like the author I will buy the book and explore more of their titles.

However, if I look at the wait time, and I can’t get access within a reasonable amount of time, then I will just skip it and perhaps might come back to the author later or not. Macmillan ignoring libraries as a key tool to gain more readers, and then raising the price of eBooks for libraries might actually hurt them in the long run more than it helps them.

The American Library Association has denounced Macmillan’s announcement and are looking for ways to fight back against the decision. Tulsa County Library supports their decision.

One way they have done this is asking all patrons of Tulsa libraries to sign a petition at They want the voices of the people to be heard saying that libraries should be considered collaborators for books and not competitors.

Post Author: Lizzy Young