#eBooksForAll – Safeguarding Access to Digital Books for Everyone

Macmillan Publishers begins their eBook embargo policy on November 1, 2019. Here’s what you need to know about their new policies and other changes from large publishers, and how it will affect you.

Recent decisions by large book publishers to limit library access to eBooks and eAudiobooks is of major concern to all of us at the Library District. As a library user, you will want to understand what is happening, how Poudre River Public Library District is responding, and what you can do to help safeguard access to digital books and ensure #eBooksForAll!

Digital checkouts are growing in popularity, not just here at Poudre River Public Library District, but at libraries across the country. In 2018, 20 percent of the items borrowed from the Library District were digital checkouts directly to your electronic devices. This represents an increase over previous years and is consistent with expanding interest and ease-of-access to digital materials.

Unfortunately, major publishing houses have recently changed how libraries can purchase and deliver digital content. These changes will particularly affect our tech-savvy library users. Because of the “embargo” policy being implemented by Macmillan Publishers starting Nov. 1 – which limits readers’ access to titles and increases costs — the Library District will no longer be purchasing digital copies of new books from Macmillan or its subsidiaries. This change will only affect new Macmillan titles in eBook and eAudiobook formats, not print.

“Kent Oliver of the Nashville Library said it best: ‘Most troubling of all is the indirect message this embargo sends, which is only those who are able and willing to pay for literature and information deserve to have access to it as soon as it is available, that philosophy goes against everything we stand for,’” explains David Slivken, executive director for Poudre River Public Library District.

By sharing this information, we hope to shed some light on our digital collection strategy and why we might not have a particular title available in digital format. We LOVE how much you use our digital collection, and want you to know we’re doing our best to meet your needs in this landscape. We could also use your help.

Limits to Access

Publishers have launched new policies that will dramatically cut eBook and eAudiobook borrowing for all libraries, regardless of library system size or location. Most troubling of these new models is Macmillan’s policy – which only applies to libraries and not to online retailers. It’s an “embargo” that means fewer opportunities for you to access certain eBooks and eAudiobooks, and which will certainly result in longer wait lists.

Under the new model which begins November 1, 2019, the Library District would only be allowed to purchase one digital copy of each new title released to make available to the community. The District may then purchase additional digital copies of that title eight weeks later but with limited two-year access. Other major publishers have also imposed a two-year access limits for digital titles, though they have not implemented an embargo.

A single copy of a new title in eBook format for a period of two months is not sufficient nor is it acceptable. In some instances, this embargo will force readers to wait a year or more to borrow an eBook.

Price Increases

These new policies also come with huge price increases for libraries.

Digital licensing rights do not allow libraries to take sole ownership of a title as is done with a printed item. Publishers typically charge libraries several times the retail price for digital formats, and now there is the additional requirement for libraries to re-purchase digital titles every two years. We anticipate that the changes in licensing models will further stretch our collection budget, resulting in fewer copies of many titles and longer hold periods.

The bottom line: Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for readers. Access to eBooks and eAudiobooks through libraries must not be denied or delayed.

Poudre River Public Library District is joining other libraries and library associations to speak up for access and to request changes to these new policies that will satisfy publishers and their authors, while also enabling libraries to continue to equitably serve their communities.

Libraries bring together authors, publishers, teachers, and readers for the purpose of boosting knowledge, creativity, literacy, ideas, and imagination. We need more people reading, not barriers that limit access.

What Can You Do?

Add your voice to the conversation if you agree that access to all published works—regardless of format—must equitably balance the rights and privileges of readers, authors, and publishers.

You are invited to join us in urging Macmillan to reverse their new policy by joining the #eBooksForAll campaign.

  1. Visit ebooksforall.org to ensure access to information and content for everyone in our community.
  2. If you’re on Twitter, click to tweet about why we need #eBooksForAll: https://ctt.ac/_y19R
  3. Sign ALA’s petition against Macmillan’s eBook embargo (opens a new window)
  4. Share feedback on these new policies directly with Macmillan: elending.feedback@macmillan.com
  5. Continue to use our digital collections. We cannot demonstrate the value and need for access without your support in this way.

While these new changes may impact our digital collections, we at Poudre River Public Library District will continue to do the best we can to provide the eBooks and content our community needs. We appreciate your support!