Public Library Responds to Macmillan’s E-Book Controversy

In a draft of a memo sent to Macmillan authors, CEO of the publishing giant, John Sargent, wrote of a new plan to increase revenue made through e-book lending at libraries. “To balance the great importance of libraries with the value of [authors’] work,” Macmillan plans to sell only one copy of any newly-released e-book at $30 to any library. Libraries will then have to wait two months after the title’s release to purchase additional copies at $60.

For those of you who aren’t fluent in corporate-speak, this means Macmillan is essentially trying to squeeze more money out of libraries that already face overly-complicated licensing policies for e-books.

 

Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public LIbrary, Image via Thestranger.com

 

In some sense, this new arrangement should come as no surprise. E-books represent a dramatic challenge to the library lending model, and Sargent notes that digital lending is inherently more seamless and involves less friction than its physical counterpart. After all, what’s easier for the reader: traveling to a physical location to check out and return a physical copy or merely downloading an e-book from a library’s database? Still, these proposed changes which are scheduled to come in to effect November 1st have angered quite a few public libraries.

 

 

Marcellus Turner, chief librarian of the Seattle Public Library, chose to  respond to these changes in a statement on the library’s website.

 

Marcellus Turner

Marcellus Turner, Image via the Seattle Public LIbrary

 

The gist of his response:

 

  1. Macmillan’s new policy will severely affect the ability of library’s in dense, urban areas to meet their visitors’ needs.
  2. The policy will disproportionately affect readers with limited resources.
  3. Major publishers already charge an increased rate for library copies of e-books, and licensing agreements for e-book lending are already complicated. This change from Macmillan represents an even more restrictive shift in the publishing industry.

 

Turner ends his message by explaining that public libraries are highly committed to providing access for those that most need it, but Macmillan’s new policy makes that commitment much harder to maintain.

 

Andrew Harbison, assistant director of collections at access at the Seattle Public Library

Image Via Library as Incubator Project

 

In an interview with TheStranger.com, Andrew Harbison, assistant director of collections at access at SPL, took issue with Sargent’s claim that e-book lending cannibalizes e-book sales. Though the lending model may need to be re-examined, Harbison contended e-book lending may actually boost sales by “retaining, maintaining, and advocating for a robust reading culture.” Harbison also argued this change will reduce the quality of the collection a library can build, ultimately harming readers who depend on library services.

What do you think? Are Macmillan Publishers in the right for prioritizing their bottom line? Or should libraries be thought of as a public good rather than a money-making tool? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram!

 

 

Featured images via TheStranger.com and Seattle Public Library