After discussion with members of our management team, we have decided that starting on November 1, 2019, SCLSNJ will no longer purchase ebook editions of new Macmillan or Macmillan imprint titles, due to changes they are making in their licensing terms for public libraries.
- We will purchase ebook copies as usual for Macmillan titles published up until the November 1 date.
- Existing ebook copies of Macmillan titles in our collection will remain available until their licensing terms expire, at which point we will evaluate repurchase on a case by case basis.
- We will continue to buy print editions of Macmillan titles as usual. For high demand titles, we plan to purchase print copies beyond our typical hold ratio in order to accommodate the additional holds and circulation that might come from patrons who would typically borrow the ebook instead.
Macmillan’s new terms are that each library is only allowed to purchase a single ebook copy in the first eight weeks after release, regardless of the library’s size — a small, rural library serving 2,000 people gets one copy, and a large system like the New York Public Library gets one copy. These new ebook terms are designed to drive consumer demand on their titles by inflating library hold queues. Macmillan’s assumption is that patrons who don’t want to wait for the single copy in the first eight weeks will simply purchase their own copies. SCLSNJ feels that if we accept these terms, it signals that we are willing to accept whatever pricing and licensing model a publisher offers, regardless of long term sustainability or fiscal responsibility. As a large library system with significant purchasing power, we have chosen not to play by these rules.
What does that mean for me?
New titles by some authors will only be available in hard copy. Macmillan and its imprints publish some of our most popular authors, including Liane Moriarty, Louise Penny, J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts, and Lisa Scottoline. We will be increasing the number of print copies we buy for popular Macmillan authors to keep the hold queues moving as quickly as we can.
Some titles in our ebook collection will disappear. As our licensing for individual ebooks expire, we may not renew that licensing for Macmillan titles.
Is there anything I can do?
- Add your names to the public petition at ebooksforall.org
- Continue to support SCLSNJ by checking out our books.
- Publishers like Macmillan believe that library users represent lost sales. We know that libraries are one of the publishing industry’s best (free) promotional tools, and we want them to understand we are not the enemy. If you find a new author you love, consider supporting them by purchasing their work for yourself, or share your love by buying copies as gifts.
- Tell Macmillan how you feel about this new policy. You can tweet @MacmillanUSA with the hashtag #eBooksForAll, or send a letter to John Sargent, Chief Executive Officer Macmillan Publishing, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.
There are a number of factors that make it much more complicated for a public library to make ebooks available to their patrons than it is for an individual to buy a copy of an ebook.
Library ebook pricing varies widely. For most bestsellers, an individual can go to their favorite site and purchase an ebook copy for themselves for less than $15. At the time of this post, for instance, Where the Crawdads Sing is available for $14.99 at Amazon, Apple, Google and other retailers. The same ebook costs SCLSNJ $55. (For comparison, with the volume discount we get from our vendors, we can get a print copy of Where the Crawdads Sing for $14.22.)
Use of library ebooks is like use of other library books: one copy, one user. It doesn’t matter that it’s digital and that multiple people could technically be accessing the same content at the same time. SCLSNJ is only allowed to make the ebooks in our collection available to one user at a time. That means that we have buy multiple copies of titles in high demand, just like we do for print books.
Licensing terms vary widely. For some publishers, ebooks are like regular books: once we buy it, it’s ours until we decide it’s no longer needed. For other publishers, licensing expires based on a certain time period. (Where the Crawdads Sing is a 24 month license, which means that if we want to use it after the two-year mark, we have to repurchase it.) Still other publishers allow a certain number of checkouts before licensing expires. 26 checkouts is a common limit, after which we have to repurchase if we want to continue to offer the title.
Timely access to ebooks varies widely. Most publishers release their ebook editions on the same day as new print titles. There are some publishers who impose an embargo for libraries. Books published by Tor are a notable example — they are not available to libraries until three months after publication. And Macmillan’s new licensing terms will only allow libraries to buy a single copy for the first eight weeks of publication.
In addition to the convenience that attracts consumers to ebooks, there are benefits for libraries, too:
- We don’t have to create physical space for extra copies of a bestseller that has run its course.
- There’s no such thing as an overdue ebook — they check themselves in, which makes the waiting list move faster.
- We don’t have to worry about fines and fees for loss or damage. If your dog gets ahold of your ebook device, she’s not going to leave tooth marks in the Library’s copy of the book you’re reading. (Your phone might be another story…)
However, because ebooks are much more complicated for libraries than other kinds of material, we have to constantly adjust our approach to make the best use of the funds we have.
Here are some other examples:
|Title||Publisher||Ebook – consumer||Ebook – library||List Price (print)||Cost to SCLSNJ|
|Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
|Putnam (Penguin)||$14.99||$55.00||$26.00||$14.22 (hardcover)|
by James Patterson and Candace Fox
|Little, Brown (Hachette)||$14.99||$65.00||$28.00||$15.32 (hardcover)|
by Tara Westover
|Random House (Penguin)||$14.99||$55.00||$28.00||$15.32 (hardcover)|
|Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
by Maria Semple
|Little, Brown (Hachette)||$7.99||$65.00||$16.99||$10.11 (paperback)|