Libraries on the North Olympic Peninsula have joined several large systems throughout the country in a boycott of electronic versions of Macmillan Publishers’ new releases.
The boycott, which began Nov. 1 and is expected to last through Dec. 31, 2020, is in protest of Macmillan Publishers’ restriction on public libraries purchasing more than one e-book copy of new titles for eight weeks after initial release.
The Washington Digital Library Consortium, which includes the North Olympic Library System (NOLS) based in Port Angeles, has joined the boycott.
NOLS operates libraries in Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks and Clallam Bay.
Macmillan Publishing enacted its embargo on public libraries Nov. 1.
“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,” according to a NOLS press release.
Macmillan is one of the largest book publishers that operates in the United States.
Company 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.”
Melody Eisler, director of the Port Townsend Public Library, and Tamara Meredith, director of the Jefferson County Library, said in a joint statement that their roles include promoting equitable access to information and resources and to encourage a lifelong love for reading.
“However, publishers have recently moved to charge libraries significantly more for e-books and e-audiobooks than regular consumers, requiring libraries to re-purchase materials after 24 months, and are now embargoing new publications for months at a time,” they said. “This removes the ease of access that we strive to deliver to our patrons — and taxpayers — and incurs increased expenses for libraries.”
NOLS said it has an obligation to ensure patrons have access to a broad range of material.
“As public servants, librarians are obliged to spend library funds effectively and responsibly,” it stated in the release. “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.”
NOLS will continue to purchase Macmillan products in other formats, such as print and audio CDs, which are not impacted by the embargo. It also will continue to add new electronic content to its digital collection with an equal number of new books from other publishers.
Previously published Macmillan electronic content already in the digital collection will not be affected, NOLS said.
That content can be found through OverDrive or Washington Anytime Library.