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#eBooksForAll calls attention to positive and negative ebook lending models

Monday, September 23, 2019

We information professionals can’t possibly stay on top of everything that affects our libraries, so here’s a quick synopsis of the current situation with ebook lending via libraries. Perhaps you’ve been hearing about Macmillan Publisher’s newly proposed lending model? In a recent American Libraries article we learn, “Starting November 1, Macmillan will limit libraries to purchasing one copy of each new ebook and impose an eight-week embargo on buying additional copies.”

In a recent Library Journal article, Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent calls the new model a “response to our growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales.” He details a loss of revenue as a motivating factor saying, “the average revenue we get from those library reads (after the wholesaler share) is well under two dollars and dropping, a small fraction of the revenue we share with [authors] on a retail read.”

For big ebooks purchasers like the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC), which coordinates the Overdrive buying pool for our state, this new lending model could have a huge impact. According to a January 9, 2019 blog post on the Rakuten OverDrive site, 65 libraries reached one million digital checkouts in 2018. With the buying power of a whole state behind us, WPLC is up at the top of the list. In 2018 both WPLC and the Toronto Public Library topped five million digital checkouts.

At the national level, the American Library Association (ALA) is following the issue closely. In a July 25, 2019 ALA press release, ALA President Wanda Brown says:

Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all. Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries. When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library – not the publisher – that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs. Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable.

In response to the Macmillan embargo, ALA recently launched a national campaign and hashtag: #eBooksForAll.

Though the hashtag was launched in response to a negative action by a Big 5 publishing company, there’s also good news for book lovers: Libraries Transform Book Pick. It’s a digital book club offering unlimited checkouts of “After the Flood” by Kassandra Montag. The title will be available October 7-21, 2019. As an Overdrive customer, WPLC can lend the book to everyone who wants to read it in that 2-week period, with no waitlists or holds.

For more information about the Libraries Transform Book Pick, please visit You can also follow the Libraries Transform Book Pick on ALA’s Facebook and Twitter and join the discussion on social media using the hashtag #LTBookPick. The Libraries Transform Book Pick is a collaboration between Booklist, the book review magazine of the American Library Association; Libraries Transform, the American Library Association’s public awareness initiative; and OverDrive, ALA Library Champion and lead sponsor of Libraries Transform.




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