By Metro Area Public Library Directors
Originally published by the Star Tribune on October 15.
One of the promises of a public library is to offer free access to ideas and information for all. Macmillan Publishers is about to make that more difficult.
For years, library budgets have been challenged to meet the growing demand for materials in print, e-books, e-audio and audiobooks. Publishers charge public libraries up to four times the price they charge individual customers, already putting a squeeze on public budgets as we try to meet the demand for e-books. The popularity of digital content continues to rise and, for many of our patrons, it is their only access to books.
Beginning on Nov. 1, Macmillan will make it even more difficult for us to supply you with the books you love to read in e-format. Whether you use Hennepin County Library or East Grand Forks Library, Macmillan will soon limit your library to purchasing only one copy of each new e-book title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release. Those with financial ability to buy new releases will be able to do so. Those who cannot or do not want to buy the newest e-books will be forced to wait.
Most of us cannot afford to buy every book that interests us. The library is a place of limitless learning opportunities for all, not just for those with the money or the inclination to buy books. For people with some physical disabilities, who depend on e-books and readers who love them, Macmillan’s plan jeopardizes timely access to popular titles and will push the waiting lists for some titles to well over a year.
We believe Macmillan’s policy not only hurts readers and libraries, but also authors and booksellers.
Libraries bring readers together with authors and publishers for the purpose of boosting knowledge, creativity, literacy, ideas and imagination. Public libraries provide an opportunity for authors to have their work exposed and marketed directly to readers in communities across the country. Countless public libraries host author and illustrator events as they market their latest materials, providing an opportunity for additional sales. The vast majority of authors view public libraries as their natural allies and partners.
Booksellers will also be negatively impacted by this embargo. People who check a book out of the library often end up going to a bookstore to buy the book either for themselves or to give as gifts.
We understand the economics of e-books are challenging, but limiting basic access is unacceptable. Libraries must remain vigilant about ensuring fair access to all people, which is why we’re joining libraries from across the country in asking Macmillan to reverse its new policy. Undermining the longstanding relationship between libraries, authors, publishers and readers with this embargo benefits no one.
The American Library Association has started a petition at eBooksForAll.org. We invite you to read more about the situation, sign and join the tens of thousands of readers who have already added their names asking Macmillan to reverse the policy.
Public libraries are proud to help create and cultivate generations of readers. In doing so we create stronger communities, a better equipped workforce and a vibrant democracy. Equitable access to e-books is a modern cornerstone of that work.
This commentary was submitted on behalf of Maggie Snow, director, Anoka County Library; Heidi Hoks, director, Carver County Library; Margaret Stone, director, Dakota County Library; Janet Mills, interim director, Hennepin County Library; Jill Boldenow, director, Ramsey County Library; Catherine Penkert, director, St. Paul Public Library; Jake Grussing, director, Scott County Public Library; Amy Stenftenagel, acting director, Washington County Public Library; and Scott Vrieze, executive director, Metropolitan Library Service Agency.