HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Library and its affiliates are joining large library systems across the country in suspending purchases of all electronic versions of Macmillan Publishers’ new releases, in a protest against the publishing house’s planned restrictions on library sales.
Among libraries participating in the boycott are the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Nashville Public Library, the Maryland Digital Library and Washington state’s King County Library System. The protest is in collaboration with partners in the Digital Downloads Collaboration.
Kanawha County Public Libraries is not participating.
Cabell County Library offers e-books and audiobooks through the online vendor platform OverDrive. All Western County Regional Libraries cardholders may recognize this service under the names WVREADS, OverDrive or Libby.
Beginning Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers enacted an embargo, prohibiting public libraries from purchasing more than one e-book copy of all new titles for eight weeks after their release. This means that public libraries are not allowed to buy e-books from Macmillan even though copies are available for individuals to purchase through regular retail sites.
As a public library, Cabell County Library has an ethical obligation to ensure that library patrons have access to a broad range of material, library leaders said in a press release.
“As public servants, librarians are obliged to spend library funds effectively and responsibly,” the release reads. “Any publisher or vendor that creates a barrier between library patrons and information access impinges on a library’s ability to use local tax dollars responsibly.”
Digital content is fast becoming the preferred — or only — access to books for many readers. Just last year, Cabell County Libraries had over 105,500 downloads, and will exceed that number by at least 16 percent this year, according to the release.
The library said a single copy of a new title in e-book 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 e-book.
Macmillan is one of the largest book publishers operating in the U.S., with titles like “Holes,” “Ender’s Game,” and “A Wrinkle in Time” to its name.
Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in an open letter that a surge in e-book borrowing has unsettled a publishing ecosystem that assumed a certain set of obstacles to accessing free library books, such as having transportation and needing to physically return the book by its due date.
“We believe the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed e-books decreases the perceived economic value of a book,” he wrote. “I know that you pay us for these e-books, but to the reader, they are free.”
Sargent noted that Macmillan now gives libraries perpetual access to their copies of its e-books and also cut the price.
The boycott is an extension of libraries’ protests of the new policy. The American Library Association asked the public in September for help pressing Macmillan to rethink the embargo, including through petitions its members have posted on their websites.
More than 200,000 readers so have signed the #eBooksForAll campaign petition.
The Cabell County Library has chosen to boycott Macmillan Publishers’ e-books until further notice. During this time, no new Macmillan e-books will be added to the digital collection. The library will continue to purchase Macmillan products in other formats, which are not affected by Macmillan’s implemented embargo.
— The Herald Dispatch, wire reports