Starting on November 1, 2019, Macmillan will limit the ability of libraries to purchase e-books for their patrons. Libraries will be allowed to buy one perpetual access copy of new titles for half price ($30) during the first two months after release. Once two months have passed, libraries can buy additional copies at full price ($60) for two years or 52 lends, whichever occurs first. This move is intended to pressure frustrated library patrons into buying the e-book themselves, since wait lists will be high. The embargo was justified by Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent as a necessary business decision as he claims libraries hurt publishers’ sales.
The Macmillan embargo as sparked an outcry among librarians, who understand that the embargo threatens their ability to serve their communities. Patrons who rely on e-books because of transportation limitations or disabilities will be affected the most, as will library patrons who cannot afford to buy new e-book titles. The embargo strikes at the core of the library’s mission to provide equal access to all, as it limits access to certain content for those who cannot afford to pay. If more publishers enact their own embargoes, libraries will be facing a future in which they are unable to offer information to the public, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Macmillan announced the embargo back in July of 2019. So how far have we come since then in the effort to pressure Macmillan to end the embargo?
The American Library Association (ALA) petition asking Macmillan to end the embargo has over 120,000 signatures.
The petition is still accepting signatures if you would like to add your name.
These include templates for writing to local media, as well as shareables suitable for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. There is also a template for writing directly to Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent.
They urged other libraries to boycott the embargoed titles, as well.
Macmillan has not publicly announced any plans to end or modify the e-book embargo.
The embargo starts in just over a week, promising long wait lists and frustrated library patrons.
The lack of response from Macmillan over the past three months is disheartening, but not surprising. Presumably Macmillan is waiting to see how successful the embargo is (how much money they make on the embargoed titles) before announcing any major changes to–or a cancellation of–the policy. This, however, makes it all the more important to keep spreading the word. Frustrated library patrons should not be tricked into purchasing embargoed titles because of long wait lists; they should be fully aware that Macmillan is purposely withholding books from libraries to make patrons spend more money. They should be able to decide whether they want to give their money to a company that treats their readers like this. They should be able to use their boycott power to voice their dissent to the embargo if they wish.
The American Library Association does not typically ask for the public to help them advocate for libraries. The fact that they have, and that they have provided easily shareable resources, is significant. It means they need public outcry in this case in order to enact change. So how can you help?
- Write to Macmillan or contact them through social media.
- Sign the ALA petition to end the embargo.
- Share some of the ALA’s resources on social media..
- Write to your library and ask them to make a public statement about the embargo. (This could be a blog post, letter to patrons, announcement on their website, letter in the local paper, etc.)
- Write a post on your blog letting library patrons know about the embargo and that it’s not their library’s fault they don’t have more e-books.
- Consider boycotting embargoed titles. Money is, after all, what speaks to businesses.
The embargo may still be in place, but that does not mean the fight for equal access is over. Every voice counts. If we act now, we can ensure that more publishers do not follow Macmillan’s lead in withholding content from library patrons, many of whom do not have the option of choosing to buy instead.