Macmillan vs. Librarians

Macmillan CEO John Sargent sent a letter to librarians in late October, addressing their concerns about Mac­millan delaying sales of ebooks to libraries for eight weeks after publication:

“First, I would like to apologize. It is clear to me that I should have written to all of you directly with our terms change. I meant no disrespect…. Please know that this change was well consid­ered and deeply discussed with over 35 library systems, with your suppliers, and with the ALA. We shared the analysis we performed and the data we collected.” He says, “I realize the lack of availability in the first eight weeks will frustrate some e-book patrons, and that will make your jobs more difficult. Your patrons would be happy if they could get any book they wanted instantly and seamlessly, but that would be severely debili­tating for authors, publishers, and retailers. We are trying to find a middle ground.”

Sargent argues that “the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed e-books decreases the perceived economic value of a book. I know that you pay us for these e-books, but to the reader, they are free…. We are not trying to hurt librar­ies; we are trying to balance the needs of the system in a new and complex world. We believe windowing for eight weeks is the best way to do that. I am the first to admit we may be wrong. But we need to try to address this issue.”

He says that Macmillan officials will meet with librarians during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia early next year, stressing, “We real­ize the role libraries play in discovery, in literacy, and in building readers. We have given away millions of books to people who are learning to read or can’t afford to buy. We have long stated that we will offer e-books at radically low prices or even free if a library can provide a means test.”

The American Library Association has vigor­ously protested the plan, launching a petition to protest Macmillan’s “recent efforts to limit library access to ebooks,” which garnered over 150,000 signatures.

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One thought on “Macmillan vs. Librarians

  • December 12, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    They seem to forget that libraries are loyal customers who are willing to pay a high price at the time of release. Are they really gaining enough sales from erstwhile library patrons to make up for the lost revenue from sales to libraries? By the time the 8-week window has passed, there is certainly much less demand as patrons move on to ebooks from other publishers, older titles, or even a print copy.


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