Blackstone Boycott News

RF Working Group Member Carmi Parker recently posted the Blackstone Boycott News of the Week:

A new media mention for the Blackstone boycott

The online news site Digital Trends called this week to talk about the Blackstone boycott as part of a larger article on publisher restrictions. It’s a great read, covering several different aspects of the impact that embargoes have.

ALA takes action!

As you probably know [and as posted on RF], ALA has launched a petition for libraries to share with the public, asking specifically that Macmillan drop its embargo. If you want to post to your library’s social media and invite your patrons to sign, you can find suggested text (with all the hashtags) here. I asked ALA a question about the petition and learned that it is one step in a larger strategy, so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Thanks, Carmi, for your continued attention to the boycott and for citing Jenny McGrath’s Digital Trends post, which gives a fine overview of recent developments. It is a great read, and, yes, it will be interesting to see how the ALA campaign develops.

Thank you , ALA, but . . . .

The ALA has announced “the launch of ALA’s Libraries Transform Book Pick, a new digital reading program in collaboration with Rakuten OverDrive, which connects readers nationwide by offering free access to the same ebook through their public libraries.

The first selection is the new riveting post-apocalyptic novel After the Flood by Kassandra Montag. The ebook will be available with no waitlists or holds from October 7-21, 2019. Public libraries in the U.S. already partnering with OverDrive can lend ebook copies of After the Flood at no cost during the two-week program. Readers will only need a library card and the Libby app to download a copy.

To help public libraries promote the program and encourage checkouts, free marketing resources are available, including a flyer template, social media graphics, a sample press release and more.”

Thanks are indeed due to the ALA for the launch, to OverDrive and Booklist for partnering, to Miss Montag, and to HarperCollins for supporting the event. HC, an additional thanks for not piling on in the recent Big 5 stampede to disadvantage librry readers. if you would just give each library the option for one OC/OU perpetual license , allowing us to buy a wider range of your titles, especially non-fiction or less popular fiction, you’d be our best friend. Thanks for not moving to time bound licenses!

BUT (you knew the kvetching was coming), next time, ALA, how’s about expanding the initiative to include more library vendors? Could the ALA reach out to Harper Collins to extend the campaign to other vendors? Would Bibliotheca or Baker & Taylor, for instance, never want to join? It seems unlikely that any technical reason prevent them. Is selecting one vendor limiting competition and disadvantaging libraries with other vendors? At a time when many publishers—not you, HC, and thanks again!— seem determined to limit library access, maybe we need an even bigger read next time.

The Ohio Library Council Board Addresses Three of the 5 and Blackstone

The Ohio Library Council’s Board has passed a resolution calling for “Blackstone Audio, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster, to reconsider these recently announced restrictive and onerous policies and engage in a meaningful and direct dialogue with libraries, library consortia, library associations, authors, and other relevant stakeholders for the purpose of creating new policies that ensure equitable access to all of Ohio’s citizens.”

OLC cites many reasons:

“WHEREAS, the U.S. publishing industry earned $25.83 billion in revenue in 2018, with downloaded audio experiencing 28.7% growth over 2017; and

WHEREAS, the major publishers have recently announced new policies for eBooks and eAudiobooks that severely limits public libraries’ ability to purchase, or delays the purchase, of digital copies of materials and information; and

WHEREAS, these restrictive policies directly impact the ability of public libraries to serve all Ohioans and adequately provide access to materials and information; and

WHEREAS, the new eBook and eAudiobook policies represent a significant financial burden impacting taxpayer supported public libraries’ overall operations and services, spending millions of dollars in 2018 on eBooks and eAudiobooks; and

WHEREAS, these arbitrary limitations make it difficult for libraries to fulfill their central mission of ensuring access to information for all and regardless of socioeconomic status.”

RF thanks the OLC Board for their stand and supports their call for the publishers to reconsider. We hope this is but the start of a state-wide campaign in Ohio to bring attention to the deleterious effects these changes will have on readers.

Thanks to Carmi Parker for bringing this matter to RF!

ASGCLA Update on ALA's #eBooksForAll Campaign

The Association of Specialized, Government, and Cooperative Library Agencies has released an update, as follows:

“Here’s more about ALA’s position on the issue.

The centerpiece of this campaign is a petition site, and before you read further GO SIGN IT! OK, you’re back and ready to keep reading? Cool – check out what we’ve done so far:


·         4,000+ uses of the hashtag #eBooksForAll to date on Twitter

·         ALA’s Facebook livestream of the news conference – which featured Patrick Losinski. Chief Executive Officer, Columbus Metropolitan Library; Mary Ghikas; Ramiro S. Salazar, San Antonio Public Library Director and President of the Public Library Association; and Kent Oliver, Library Director, Nashville Public Library -- thus far has had 2.2K views, reached more than 8,300 people and had 300+ engagements.

·         We got incredible exposure via earned media in the AP (with more than 2,600 news sites in the U.S. and Canada posting the piece) as well Slate, Publishers Weekly , EContent, and NPR Nashville -- with more stories to be posted soon.

·         As of 4:00 today, we were at more than 5,000 signatures on our petition.

·         We will be developing a suite of tools at in the next several days, and we’ll update you very soon when those are available.

In the meantime, we would be grateful for your help spreading the word. Here are some samples you can share with your teams/members/friends/family:


Macmillan Publishers is trying to limit your access to eBooks via your public library. Join readers and libraries across the country in opposing their new policy scheduled to begin November 1. Sign the #eBooksForAll petition now, and tell Macmillan that access to eBooks should not be delayed or denied:


.@MacmillanUSA is trying to limit your access to eBooks via your public library. Join @ALAlibrary & libraries across the country in opposing their new policy, scheduled to begin Nov 1. Sign the #eBooksForAll petition now:

Sample email/newsletter copy:

America’s libraries are committed to promoting literacy and a love of reading with diverse collections, programs and services for all ages. In an increasingly digital world, libraries are investing more in eBooks and downloadable media, and thousands of people discover and explore new and favorite authors through both digital and print collections.

 But now one publisher has decided to limit readers’ access to new eBook titles. Beginning November 1, 2019, Macmillan Publishers will allow libraries to purchase only one copy of each new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release.

Libraries and readers alike cannot stay silent! 

The American Library Association and libraries across the country are asking you to voice your opposition to Macmillan's new policy by signing this petition and telling Macmillan CEO John Sargent that access to eBooks should not be delayed or denied. We must have #eBooksForAll!

Visit today and share the news widely.”

RF appreciates ALA’s leadership on this effort. Please let your voices, individually and organizationally, be heard.

ALA Press Conference to be Live Streamed

Alan Inouye of ALA notes that on Wednesday September 11, a press conference about Library Digital Content, specifically on Macmillan’s changes, will be live-streamed:

This summer @MacmillanUSA radically changed its policy for library ebook lending. ALA advocates reacted quickly and more #eBooksForAll advocacy efforts are underway. Join us on Wednesday during #DBW19 via Facebook Live at 11 a.m. CST to learn more.

Mr. Inouye has also published a piece in American Libraries with news of the ALA’s position, noting the outcry over Macmillan’s decision from libraries and others, such as author Neil Gaiman:

“Why is this public outcry important? The most obvious reason is trying to persuade Macmillan to change its course. But a strong public showing will also serve to discourage other publishers from going down the embargo road. In addition, such action is critical to any legislative, regulatory, or judicial path. Broad community and public support strengthens the case that our position is correct public policy, and supporting us is advantageous to prospective political partners.

ALA and PLA will be taking our ebook advocacy efforts to the general public with a press conference this week during the Digital Book World trade show in Nashville. The press conference will be livestreamed on ALA’s Facebook page at 11 a.m. CST on September 11. ALA members and the general public are encouraged to follow the conversation on social media using #eBooksForAll.

Looking ahead, the two prongs of librarian criticism and public outcry will be supplemented with political ones. ALA has already begun work on this issue and is contemplating further possibilities. It will also continue collaboration with its fellow library associations and other allies. Success also depends on the continuing support of libraries, library organizations, and library workers and advocates across the country.”

Political action may in the end be our only hope. RF encourages all libraries to follow this development.

Update on The Blackstone Boycott

Carmi Parker of Whatcom County Library System has released another weekly update of the Washington state led boycott of Blackstone Audio over its embargo on selected titles to libraries.

The library group has hoped that Blackstone would respond to several questions they had posed jointly. A Blackstone representative has denied the request. Ms. Parker said to ReadersFirst “There were multiple shared questions that we hoped would be answered in a way that demonstrate that they were hearing us. As it is, the only official communication (still!) has been the notification libraries received through OverDrive and the boilerplate email response they sent when we complained.”

To the question “Will Blackstone ask its strategic partner [Amazon/Audible?] to enable embargoed content on the eLending platforms?,” (that is, could library vendors carry the titles), the answer was that Blackstone would not approach its partner.

It would seem that in spite of suggestions that they would speak with libraries, Blackstone is not being forthcoming about any details. When does silence become stonewalling?

If you are a Blackstone customer and want to ask questions, maybe they will talk with you.

In the meantime, libraries from Pennsylvania have joined the boycott:

A email template for patrons who are concerned about long waiting lists for Blackstone titles has been added to the toolkit.

RF thanks Ms. Parker and the participating libraries for standing up for library readers. Should literacy in our country require a credit card?

The ALA Prepares to Enter the Fray

Alan Inouye, ALA’s Senior Director, Public Policy & Government Relations at American Library Association, has confirmed that Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO Patrick Losinski will participate with other library leaders in an announcement launching a campaign against Macmillan’s e-book embargo on libraries, adding to Shawnda Hines’s press release of 9/6/19.

That release reads as follows:

Contact: Shawnda Hines,, (202) 628-8410

 Headline: ALA to launch national campaign against e-book embargo

 Washington, D.C. - On September 11, 2019, at 11 a.m., the American Library Association (ALA) will unveil a public action campaign opposing arbitrary restrictions to library e-book lending. The campaign is in response to Macmillan Publishers’ new policy to allow a library to purchase only one copy upon release of a new e-book title; no additional copies will be available for eight weeks. The announcement will take place at Nashville Public Library, 615 Church Street Nashville, Tennessee. The announcement coincides with the 2019 Digital Book World conference in Nashville.   

National library leaders including Kent Oliver, library director, Nashville Public Library; Mary Ghikas, executive director, American Library Association; and Ramiro Salazar, president, Public Library Association, will share library and reader impacts of the embargo and efforts to increase digital access for all.  [Have since added Pat Losinski, CEO, Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library]

Macmillan’s embargo is scheduled to begin November 1, and would limit libraries’ ability to serve their communities in an increasingly digital world.

ReadersFirst eagerly awaits the announcement and thanks Ms. Ghikas and Mr. Oliver, Salazar, and Losinski for their leadership.

Mr. Inouye has released a list of articles on Macmillan’s action as of September 8, which may be found here. Thank you for your work, Alan!


Update on S&S pricing

A member of the RF Working Group has looked at some price changes at Simon & Schuster from last year to this, in light of their new license models.

Here are title/author/2018 1 year license/2019 2 year license/Audiobook 2018 (one copy, one user) and Audiobook 2019 (two year metered). All prices are in U.S. $.

1776 David McCullough $19.99 $19.99 $79.99 $79.99

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Lisa See $19.99 $59.99 $79.99 $79.99

Screwdrivered Alice Clayton $10.99 $31.99 $79.99 $79.99

Red Scrolls of Magic Cassandra Claire $18.99 $51.99 $89.99 $89.99

Latte Factor David Bach $16.99 $47.99 $59.99 $59.99

The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion $18.99 $55.99 $109.00 $109.00

Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell $13.99 $35.99 $71.00 $71.00

Flowers in the Attic V.C. Andrews $12.99 $35.99 $79.99 $79.99

Accidental Sire Molly Harper $8.99 $23.99 Audible only

Driving Mr. Dead (novella) Molly Harper $2.99 $9.99 Audible only

So, audiobook prices have remained the same—looks good, until one factors that a perpetual license is now time bound. Over the years, this represents a major cost increase.

As for the e-book prices, except for the McCullough title, which does seem a bargain, we have the titles for twice as long but at three times the cost. That’s some great deal, S&S. Thanks.

Effects of S&S Changes Becoming Evident

In late June, Simon & Schuster became the fourth of the Big 5 to change digital content licenses to libraries since July of 2018. Their e-books, previously available on one-year licenses, as of August 1 are now available on two-year licenses. Their digital audiobooks, previously available on perpetual license, are now also on two-year licenses. In addition, some titles—we assumed from the backlist—would be available on a “per checkout basis” at $.99 to $2.99.

Some of these changes are good for libraries. One year licenses stink: while the popularity of most titles wanes well within 52 weeks, most libraries plan to keep at least one copy of title more than a year, not to mention the irritation of having to re-order every 12 months. $2.99 per use for titles could be a budget buster, should those titles prove popular, but S&S is to be thanked for offering multiple license options—long a RF request based on a survey of librarians. We can also be thankful that S&S is not restricting/embargoing access to titles, unlike Macmillan.

Not all the news is good. As we have often noted before, perpetual licenses also have drawbacks: leasing many copies we won’t end up keeping is not the best use of funds. The perpetual license does offer some hope, however muted, for preservation of content. As long as S&S is being flexible about offering licenses, how about offering the option for both perpetual and metered? S&S could take a page from Macmillan and offer each library one perpetual license (but no embargoes and NOT one copy per consortium, please!) plus however may metered licenses in both e-book and audiobook. Of course, time-bound licenses are terrible. As Steve Potash has pointed out, 79% of all such licenses expire because of time and not circulation. Harper Collins, initially attacked for their 26 lends per license, is clearly the best deal we have now. HC, please offer the option for one perpetual license, keep your 26 circ model as is, and be the industry leader!

But the real reason for this column is to look at some evidence for S&S is doing . . .and the answer is, not as well as we might like, at least in terms of price.

RF Working Group Member Susan Caron, of Toronto Public, reports that S&S is giving a whole new meaning to the word “double.”

Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Capture: paid $32,12 for 12 months in 2018, on offer for $119.99 for 24 months in 2019.

Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipes: paid $41.29 (12 months) in 2018, on offer for $151.99 in 2019.

The Pie and Pastry Bible: Paid $16.05 (12 months) in 2018, on offer for $151.99 in 2019.

The lease period has doubled, but the prices have double-doubled. Susan has cited at least 14 examples.

I haven’t had time to check on many U.S. titles yet, but can suggest that at least one has more than doubled for my library: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership: In Turbulent Times was $20.99 for 12 months in September 2018, but $59.99 for 24 months now.

This (admittedly limited) sample suggests that S&S is hiding some pretty big price increases behind its change in license models. Not cool! Is your library seeing the same trend? Comment below.