Why Multnomah County Library will stop buying e-books from Macmillan Publishers

In September, I shared the news that Macmillan Publishers was planning to impose a restriction that would block people from borrowing new Macmillan e-books from libraries. This new policy took effect November 1. It is designed to do one thing: make Macmillan more money by creating barriers for people to use library resources.

Man and instructor using an e-reader for digital content
Like others who lead public library systems across the United States, I am deeply worried that other publishers will follow suit, undermining the ability of libraries to provide resources in the ways people want to use them. We want Macmillan to end this policy.

Nearly 16,000 fellow Oregonians agree and showed their support by signing the American Library Association’s #eBooksForAll petition. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has also spoken out against the new restrictions.

Beginning today, Multnomah County Library (MCL) will no longer purchase new Macmillan e-books.

This is not a decision we take lightly. It means that the library has chosen to side against one specific company, something I would prefer to avoid. Our decision also means that some library patrons won’t be able to access popular authors in their preferred format and I regret that fact.

The alternative is to be the proverbial frog in a pot of water that keeps getting warmer. Libraries and taxpayers have shouldered the burdens of licensing instead of owning content, paying many times the retail price of e-books, and time-limited licenses that expire and require continual repurchasing of materials we’ve already bought.

When you can only buy something from one source and the terms of that purchase become this unreasonable, it’s time to say “no more.” In 2019, MCL has purchased nearly $120,000 in e-books from Macmillan.

We will continue to buy Macmillan titles in print and audiobook formats. We will retain the Macmillan e-books the library has already purchased. We will continue to offer the same top notch customer service. We will help readers discover new authors and alternate formats. We will continue our advocacy for e-books for all.

Thank you for your support and patronage of your public library.

 

Director's pen signature image

 

 

 

 

Vailey Oehlke
Director of Libraries
Multnomah County Library
Former president, Public Library Association

 

Which e-books are affected?
All e-book titles published by Macmillan or by any of the publishers that Macmillan owns. These titles will still appear in our catalog in other formats, but will not be available in e-book format.

What will happen to Macmillan e-books that Multnomah County Library already has in the catalog?
Macmillan e-books already in our collection will remain. You can continue to place hold requests and check them out as usual.
 
If you have a Macmillan e-book checked out right now, it will not be affected.
 
Does this purchase suspension include Macmillan books in all formats?
No. This decision only affects Macmillan e-books. We will continue to purchase print and audiobook versions of Macmillan titles.
 
If I submit a purchase request for a new Macmillan e-book, will it automatically be rejected?
Yes. We will not be purchasing any Macmillan e-books. Library staff will process and consider purchase suggestions for all other Macmillan formats as usual.
 
I don’t know much about Macmillan. What books do they publish?
Macmillan is one of the “Big Five” book publishers in the world, along with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. They publish a wide variety of fiction, nonfiction, and other genres from hundreds of different authors.
 
One popular author they represent is Nora Roberts, whose popular fiction series, Chronicles of The One, consistently makes bestseller lists across the country. The upcoming third installment of the series, The Rise of Magicks, releases Tuesday, Nov 26.
 
Multnomah County Library will buy copies in all formats of The Rise of Magicks except the e-book version. We have also assembled a list of other titles that readers of the Chronicles of One fans might enjoy.
 
How long will this suspension last?
We don’t have an end date right now. Should Macmillan cancel its embargo, we will immediately lift the suspension.
 
I want Macmillan to stop their embargo, or at least offer better terms to libraries. What can I do?
You can let Macmillan know how you feel by signing the #ebooksForAll petition at www.ebooksforall.org, by emailing Macmillan directly at press.inquiries@macmillan.com or by using the #ebooksForAll hashtag to spread the word on social media and lead other readers to the petition.
 
How many of the books the library buys come from Macmillan?
There are 7,147 Macmillan e-book titles in our collection currently out of 109,984 e-books (6.5% of our collection). They account for 8.2% of e-book checkouts (vs. 37% for Penguin Random House, which is the biggest by a wide margin)
 
Why don’t you at least take the single e-book Macmillan is offering so I have some chance of getting it from the library?
We believe everyone deserves equal access to books and information. In our view, Macmillan’s policy means that only those who can and will pay for access deserve it. That’s why we believe this is the next step we must take.
 
Additionally, your chances of getting access to that single copy in the first two months are slim. We have hundreds of patrons who place holds on the most popular new e-books. Everyone can hold or check out an e-book for up to 24 days, which is nearly a month. By the time you move to the top of the queue, odds are, it will have been several months already.
 
We understand that this is frustrating. We know this decision won’t please everyone, but we firmly believe that this suspension is the best way we can support e-book readers and ensure that libraries have equal access to digital materials.

What other publishers does Macmillan own?

Adult / Young Adult

  • Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • North Point Press
  • Hill and Wang
  • Faber and Faber Inc.
  • First Second
  • Henry Holt
  • Metropolitan Books
  • Times Books
  • Holt Paperbacks
  • Picador
  • St Martin’s Press
  • Griffin
  • Minotaur
  • All Points Books
  • Castle Point Books
  • St. Martin’s Press Paperbacks
  • Let’s Go
  • Thomas Dunne Books
  • Truman Talley Books
  • Tor/Forge
  • Flatiron Books
  • Macmillan Collector’s Library
  • Celadon Books
  • Graywolf Press

Children’s

  • Farrar, Straus & Giroux for Young Readers
  • Feiwel & Friends
  • Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
  • Imprint
  • Kingfisher
  • Odd Dot
  • Priddy Books
  • Roaring Brook Press
  • Square Fish
  • Tor Children’s