Macmillan Drops eBook Embargo After Libraries’ Protest

Posted on March 26, 2020

by Library News

Macmillan Publishers has announced the end of its embargo on new-release eBooks. This decision, a victory for readers nationwide, means greater access to books in the electronic format. Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) is now ensuring more Macmillan titles are available for its customers.

Since Nov. 1, Macmillan severely restricted libraries’ ability to purchase eBooks for lending. The company permitted each library system, regardless of size, to buy just one digital copy of a title within eight weeks of its release. This limit brought longer waitlists for certain eBooks.

We know our digital collection is even more vital now that our community has been instructed to stay home.
Kristie Lanzotti
Collection development coordinator

Kristie Lanzotti, collection development coordinator, said Macmillan’s embargo challenged the Library’s timely fulfillment of digital requests. This recently became especially serious, as the coronavirus forced temporary closure of TLCPL locations.

“We know our digital collection is even more vital now that our community has been instructed to stay home,” she said. “The Library is working hard to increase available copies of popular titles, ensuring greater variety and shorter wait times.”

Macmillan is one of the largest publishing companies in the country. Affected titles include American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, Golden in Death by J.D. Robb and The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry. Macmillan also dropped the four-month embargo on its Tor imprint of science fiction and fantasy books. The Tor embargo preceded Macmillan’s larger restrictions.

TLCPL staff are actively managing the digital collection while Library buildings are closed. They are dedicated to preserving information access for all. But libraries overall face significant licensing restrictions with eBooks.

When the Library purchases a digital title, for example, the license does not provide unlimited copies and ultimately zero wait times for customers. In addition, each lendable eBook copy is typically more expensive than the version customers buy for their own use.

Readers across the country have loudly voiced their displeasure with Macmillan’s embargo. For months, they sent messages to the company and posted updates to social media. TLCPL leaders encouraged customers join an online petition from the American Library Association. So far, more than 250,000 people signed in opposition to Macmillan’s actions.

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