ALA Statement on New Macmillan Library Lending Model

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From The American Library Association:

On July 25, Macmillan Publishers announced a new library ebook lending model. In response, the American Library Association’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office released the following statement:

The American Library Association (ALA) denounces the new library ebook lending model announced today by Macmillan Publishers. Under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in ebook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.

“Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown. “Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library—not the publisher—that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

The new Macmillan ebook lending model is an expansion of an existing policy that went into effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint. At the time, ALA stated that the delay would hurt readers, authors, and libraries.

Since last fall, Hachette Book Group and Penguin Random House have eliminated “perpetual access” for libraries and replaced it with a two-year access model. Simon & Schuster changed from a one-year to two-year access model. While reevaluating their business models, none of these firms implemented an embargo—deciding that equitable access to information through libraries is also in their business interest. HarperCollins continues with its 26-loan model. Macmillan now stands alone in its embargo policy among the largest Big Five publishers.

Macmillan will decrease its price to $30 for the single initial copy of an ebook. Unlike other Big Five publishers, this copy of Macmillan titles come with perpetual access. After the embargo period, additional copies will be available for $60 per copy for two years of access.

“This new embargo is the latest evidence of a troubling trend in the publishing industry,” said Brown. “ALA is developing a strategy to address this trend in the long term. Following the model of ALA’s former Digital Content Working Group, this advocacy effort will extend several years, not several months, and will not be limited to one company in the publishing ecosystem. ALA will push harder and explore all possible avenues to ensure that libraries can do our jobs of providing access to information for all, without arbitrary limitations that undermine libraries’ abilities to serve their communities.

“In the short term, ALA calls on library customers of Macmillan Publishers to tell CEO John Sargent they object to the publishing company’s new policy.”

Link to the rest at The American Library Association

In the US and, perhaps, elsewhere, the community public library stands with mom, apple pie and the flag as a loved and respected institution, especially in smaller communities.

The library often sponsors a children’s story hour during which a librarian will read a children’s book to any children who wish to attend. While the children are listening, the parents are chatting in the background, usually talking about their children and challenges, community happenings, etc.

The library will also often have a space for small meetings that is available at no charge in the evenings so community groups can gather to further their various purposes.

For lower-income patrons, the library may offer the only high-speed internet access available. Libraries also often host adult-learning classes, both online and in person.

Suffice to say, in a public relations battle between Big Publishing and community libraries, the libraries will win hands-down.

PG’s only criticism of the OP is that it didn’t include an email address where complaints could be sent to Macmillan and a hashtag for social media use.


5 thoughts on “ALA Statement on New Macmillan Library Lending Model”

  1. Sounds like libraries need to do an embargo on Macmillan.

    “Macmillan? They’re anti-library so we don’t have anything of theirs for you to look at/check out.”

    Agree with PG that they needed to link complaints/hashtag.

  2. To be honest, the only thing that bothers me about this is the disingeuous whining used to to squeeze libraries.

    They want to price the SF ebooks at $13 while their biggest competitor, Baen, prices theirs at $5-10? And Indie SF runs $3-5? And a month of KU or Scribd goes for $10? And a month of Prime (video), NETFLIX, HULU, DCUNIVERSE, and (soon Disney+) all run from $5-13?

    Go right ahead.
    As long as you are willing to face the consequences in lost sales.

    But to cause those loses, drive their fans to wait for months on embargoed copies, and then blame lobraries for tbeir self-induced losses?

    No. You can’t eat your cake and have it too.

    In the real world there are two workable approaches: price low and aim for volume sales or price high and live with low volume. High volume high prices only happens in dreams.

    Instead of boycotts, libraries should simply tell MacMillan to fly off. Buy none of their books, digital or print.

    My expectation, though, is the libraries will bripe before bowing before their magnificence and paying the danegeld.

    • They want to price the SF ebooks at $13 while their biggest competitor, Baen, prices theirs at $5-10?

      Except, of course, when they’re selling those ebooks to libraries. Then they charge $60 for a licence that expires after the book has been lent out 52 times.

      You can’t eat your cake and have it too.

      This is a hard concept to explain to a Pig Five publisher, since the main staple of their diet is other people’s cake.

    • I would love to see libraries drop MacMillan. It would be a great experiment. How will retail sales react? Does their total revenue go up or down? Profit? Amazon sales? Bricks and mortar sales?

      It would also give us another experiment. Will libraries give up the $30 perpetual copy for principle?

  3. And, let’s not forget, that $10 price is only for books that haven’t had the paperback edition come out yet, and Baen also offers their monthly bundles, each of which contains six to eight books, for $18 a pop.
    So far, I haven’t heard that they’re hurting.

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