October 31, 2019

Library suspends purchasing of Macmillan Publishers’ eBooks due to embargo

COLUMBUS—Effective tomorrow, Nov. 1, 2019, Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), in conjunction with Digital Downloads Collaboration partners, is joining other large library systems, including Nashville Public Library and King County Library, in the decision to no longer purchase newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers. Macmillan is one of five major publishers in the United States. This decision comes after months of discussion and advocacy to urge Macmillan to reconsider instituting a library eBook embargo. The embargo, set to go into effect on Nov. 1, dictates that public libraries and consortiums of all sizes will be restricted to purchasing only one copy of a newly released eBook for the first eight weeks after publication. The Digital Downloads Collaboration was the 10th highest circulating entity in the world in 2018, with a total circulation of 3.44 million items.

Public libraries serve as a critical cornerstone in the universe of information distribution and literacy, ensuring timely access to content and information for all. CML believes this commitment to equal access is paramount to achieving our vision of a thriving community where wisdom prevails.

The Digital Downloads Collaboration has strived to minimize wait times for popular eBook titles by purchasing an adequate number of copies. If libraries are limited to one digital copy of each new title, and then have to wait eight weeks before being able to purchase more, library customers could conceivably wait several months rather than weeks for their eBook.

“Columbus Metropolitan Library’s suspension of the purchasing of new Macmillan eBooks is a stand against limiting equal access to our customers,” said Patrick Losinski, CML CEO. “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. And that’s unacceptable in a democratic society.”

To continue to ensure reasonable wait times for newly released eBooks, CML and partner libraries will divert their eBook budget dollars to publishers who are willing to sell without a purchasing embargo. CML will continue to purchase Macmillan titles that are not embargoed, including print materials, eAudiobooks and older copies of best-selling eBooks.

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

In response to Macmillan’s policy announcement – and as part of the #eBooksForAll campaign – CML has launched a dedicated webpage, columbuslibrary.org/ebook-access. Included is additional information about the issue, as well as a link to an ALA petition to send a message to Macmillan and the other publishers to start treating public libraries like collaborators rather than competitors.

Columbus Metropolitan Library has served the people of Franklin County, Ohio since 1873. With its Main Library and 22 branches, CML is well known for signature services and programs like Homework Help, Reading Buddies, Summer Reading Challenge and Ready for Kindergarten. The library’s Strategic Plan supports the vision of “a thriving community where wisdom prevails,” which positions CML to respond to areas of urgent need: kids unprepared for kindergarten, third grade reading proficiency, high school graduation, college and career readiness and employment resources.

CML was named a 2011 National Medal Winner by the Institute for Museum and Library Services for work in community service, the highest honor for libraries and museums. CML was also named 2010 Library of the Year by Library Journal.