Publishers Weekly Reports on the Macmillan Changes

Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly has posted a wide-ranging story on the e-book changes Macmillan announced today [disclosure: members of the RF Working Group are quoted].

This article clarifies that the only good news in Macmillan’s announcement—the possibility of getting a perpetual license, if only one—is limited: “A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed to PW that the single perpetual access copy will be available only for new release titles in the first eight weeks after publication—the option to buy a single perpetual access copy expires after that eight week window, and the offer is not available for backlist titles.”

Too bad about all those titles that might fail to make a splash but later become in demand or recognized as significant. Our ability to curate them, praised by Mr. Sargent as an advantage of the changes, is non-existent and undermines Sargent’s claim.

ALA Senior Director for Public Policy & Government Relations Alan Inouye is quoted as saying the following: "Worse than expected," he told PW. "Embargoes violate the principle of equitable access to information that is at the core of libraries," he added, pointing out that Macmillan's policy is curiously out of step with the rest of the industry. "Within the past year, three of the other Big Five publishers revised their library e-book business models, and none of them concluded that libraries were a threat to their profitability," Inouye observed. "Indeed, these other publishers believe that libraries are benefit to their businesses. Macmillan stands alone with its embargo."

Other librarians also weigh in: “And both [Director of White Plains Library Brian} Kenney and [director, Collections & Membership Services, Toronto Public Library Susan] Caron say Macmillan clearly did not listen to librarian input, because the new terms are not useful. "If we need more than one copy of a title, we’ll just wait. Our users will be upset if we don’t buy more to reduce holds, as we normally do. And if we can wait eight weeks, we may decide not to buy the title at all."

Since that wait is precisely what Macmillan wants, however, would it be a better idea to license the one and tell our patrons to complain to Macmillan when they want more?

FY 2019 can go down as the year that the Big 5 screwed over libraries, and, more importantly, library readers. We thank Harper Collins for resisting the parade and continuing to offer its e-books on a circulation based (and not time bound) license. HC, add the option for a perpetual license, and you become the company that cares.