Petition to stop Macmillan Publishers from restricting public libraries’ eBook access

People using eBooks may experience a delay in receiving them from public libraries if Macmillan Publishers goes through with a scheduled lending model set for Nov. 1.

The new model, announced in July 2019, would give Wisconsin public libraries one eBook license for the first eight weeks after a book is released.

Tana Elias, the digital services and marketing manager for Madison Public Library, said the model could keep people waiting for months.

“We feel like it’s unfair for libraries to have (such restrictions) on the books that people really want to read,” Elias said.

She said in the past five years, eBook collections have grown by 163%. She believes eBooks are an important asset for libraries because they offer the ability to enlarge text for those with visual and other disabilities, and they can be accessed at any time, in any place.

Madison Public Library is part of a consortium of libraries in South Central Wisconsin, that allows the library system to have one extra eBook. Elias said that means that for eight weeks, about 750,000 people in South Central Wisconsin will be competing for two eBooks. She said for the state, it’s a competition of 5 million.

Without the publisher’s model, Madison Public Library strives to have five eBook titles per person. According to a press release from the City of Madison on Wednesday, that puts a maximum waiting period at 1.5 months per book. Elias said each eBook can cost the library about two to four times more than what a consumer pays.

“(Macmillan Publishers are) worried about sales, so they’re seeing decreasing eBook sales,” Elias said. “They feel that libraries are a competition. We feel that we’re friendly allies.”

The American Library Association, Public Library Association and Madison Public Library Board president Jaime Healy-Plotkin spoke against the model Wednesday and announced a public petition to stop it. The petition is called eBooksForAll.

“We feel like it’s not competition,” Elias said. “We feel like we can coexist peacefully.”

No press release was found on the Macmillan Publishers website regarding the new lending model.

As of Friday, the eBooksForAll petition has more than 120,000 signatures. Those interested in signing it can visit the petition’s website.

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