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Libraries Must Draw the Line on E-books

Publishers Weekly – Recent developments suggest a grim future for digital content in libraries, writes Sari Feldman, unless library supporters find a way to respond. “Until now, I’ve been inclined to give publishers the benefit of the doubt. As co-chair of the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group from 2011 to 2014, back when libraries were working to get basic access to e-books, I came to recognize that some of the restrictions publishers place on libraries in the digital space are business decisions that, to some degree, reflect an economic reality the library community must learn to accept. But recent changes imposed by some of the major publishers have gone too far. A year ago, Macmillan placed a four-month embargo on new-release titles from its Tor imprint—part of what the publisher characterized as a “test.” In a series of recent meetings, Macmillan representatives told librarians that the test has validated its belief that library e-book lending depresses consumer e-book sales and author payouts. Speculation is that Macmillan will soon announce new digital terms and pricing for libraries that will include some version of an embargo on new-release titles across more of Macmillan’s imprints.

Despite holding meetings with librarians (including me), as well as with representatives from the American Library Association, it does not appear that Macmillan has listened to our concerns. Embargoing new releases in libraries is unacceptable. Windowing digital content will place libraries at a true disadvantage at a time when they are already under increasing pressure to serve digital readers and audiobook listeners. Further, libraries are already limited in the digital space. We often pay three to five times the consumer price for two-year access to e-books: terms that dramatically limit the number of copies we can afford to purchase, resulting in long wait times for readers—often many months for the hottest, buzziest titles. Adding an additional embargo period will only extend these already-long wait times for digital readers…”

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