Libraries to boycott publisher’s e-book policy

October 31, 2019 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Several large library systems across the U.S. plan to suspend purchases beginning Friday of all electronic versions of Macmillan Publishers’ new releases, in a protest against the publishing house’s planned restrictions on library sales.

Among libraries participating in the boycott are the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Nashville Public Library, the Maryland Digital Library and Washington state’s King County Library System. The protest is in collaboration with partners in the Digital Downloads Collaboration.

Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus library, called it a “stand against limiting equal access to our customers.”

Macmillan’s library embargo, which also begins Friday, will restrict public libraries and consortium of all sizes to buying a single copy of each newly released e-book for the first eight weeks of publication.


“By limiting the number of copies our library can purchase, Macmillan is allowing only a certain segment of our society to access digital content in a timely manner — those who can pay for it themselves,” he said in a statement. “And that’s unacceptable in a democratic society.”

Last year, nearly 67,000 Columbus library patrons checked out nearly 2 million items from our digital collection. Digital content downloads continue to trend upward.

Macmillan is one of the largest book publishers operating in the U.S. The company did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in an open letter that a surge in e-book borrowing has unsettled a publishing ecosystem that assumed a certain set of obstacles to accessing free library books, such as having transportation and needing to physically return the book by its due date.

“We believe the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed e-books decreases the perceived economic value of a book,” he wrote. “I know that you pay us for these e-books, but to the reader, they are free.”

Sargent noted that Macmillan now gives libraries perpetual access to their copies of its e-books and also cut the price.

The boycott is an extension of libraries’ protests of the new policy. The American Library Association asked the public in September for help pressing Macmillan to rethink the embargo, including through petitions its members have posted on their websites.