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.

Two Posts Call Out Amazon and Macmillan

Andrew Albanese at Publishers Weekly has reported on Bibliotheca’s Tom Mercer’s open letter to librarians. Mr. Mercer writes that Amazon is using data it collects from library e-book and audio use (through its arrangement with OverDrive) to suggest libraries are costing publishers revenues: “As long as data is shared with Amazon by library users, Amazon will spin that data to create concern, and publishers will be forced to alter their digital library lending models or risk losing key authors.“

Mercer argues that libraries should pressure vendors (okay, yes, it is really “vendor” and not “vendors”) to drop data sharing with Amazon: “I think libraries can respond in a few ways. First, they can pressure their existing vendors to terminate relationships or refuse to share data with Amazon. If Amazon won’t sell their content to libraries, then why should libraries share their data with Amazon? Second, they can appeal to ALA to engage authors the same way they engage publishers and demonstrate how digital lending contributes to the discovery and accessibility of their works. The book ecosystem starts with authors and we need to ensure that they understand the value libraries provide. It is also advisable to consider joining the efforts of the Association of American Publishers, who are currently pressuring the Federal Trade Commission to monitor Amazon. “

Albanese explores the ramifications of Mercer’s statement comprehensively and his article is well worth a read. Your RF correspondent is cited in the article: “Short answer, no, I wouldn’t want OverDrive to give up their Amazon connection—even though I think Tom Mercer’s views have enough merit that I might wish OverDrive would.” Yes. While I don’t think OverDrive dropping Amazon is the best way to start, I do think Mercer makes many good points. So here’s a longer answer:

I don’t like Amazon in our sandbox. We tout SimplyE as being a more private option for library users because Amazon never sees any data—but we then have OverDrive libraries hesitate to deploy because Amazon users are left out. I’m not sure a figure of 23-24% Kindle use in OD is completely accurate because I don’t think OD is separating out true Kindle use (on e-ink Kindles) from tablet and phone use with the Amazon app. Amazon users know this way of getting content, so they continue to use it even though there are more private (and I would argue better) options on their devices. I‘d love to convert library users away from Amazon, and I’d also love to win the lottery and spend my life traveling. Most likely ain’t gonna happen. It is more likely that many Kindle users would drop the library if that format is taken away. People come into libraries with e-ink Kindles and want to know how to get content.

What I’d like to see (scenarios get more likely to happen the farther down we go):

• Libraries nationally adopt SimplyE, wean library users away from Amazon, and foreground the library as content provider—we should seek EPUB 3 as the gold standard for libraries and fight against all proprietary formats. How does that jive with my statement that we should not lose Kindle format? Oh, you expect consistency? Hey, I’ve said this scenario is unlikely, and practicality is the reason why with OD may not want to lose Kindle format. But Mercer is right—there are good reasons to do so. We should make our case, especially since many users will have access to a tablet or phone, be familiar with apps, and likely not stuck on Kindle e-ink. But let’s make the case directly with readers, and not through vendors.

• All library e-book vendors can provide Kindle/MOBI format titles and users get them directly from the library vendors without having to go to Amazon—level the playing field and increase privacy

• All library e-book vendors can offer Amazon format titles and we send Kindle users to Amazon—at least it’s a level playing field, and we offer some people content in a format they are familiar with; also, Amazon makes a deal to have its “exclusive” content available in libraries. It’s not like Bezos can’t afford it.

Of course, none of these will happen (though the first option IS something we could and should do), so:

• Hold our noses and live with OverDrive’s monopoly, but engage library readers and ultimately publishers on how libraries help authors, pointing out that Amazon is also part of their problem in a complex ecosystem and making a positive case for how libraries are good for readers and reading and so good for authors and publishers.

While I’m sympathetic to some of Tom’s points, but some seem myopic. “Second, they can appeal to ALA to engage authors the same way they engage publishers and demonstrate how digital lending contributes to the discovery and accessibility of their works. The book ecosystem starts with authors and we need to ensure that they understand the value libraries provide.” Who are the authors going to believe, the ALA or their publishers? Look at the recent Author’s Guild statement supporting Macmillan’s restrictive changes. And of course, we probably don’t need the case to new or non-best-selling authors that libraries are good for them. Authors with blockbusters sales may simply not care about libraries. They probably all love bookstores more than libraries anyway. Let’s take our fight to READERS.

Thanks, though, Tom, for stating points that need to be considered and at least calling out Amazon for bogus claims.

Speaking of Macmillan, another article that is worth reading has appeared in Computers in Libraries: “Publishers Are on a Collision Course With Libraries,” by Terry Ballard. Ballard reports that Macmillan CEO John Sargent . At Book Buzz, Ballard reports, Sargent said “Macmillan worked with libraries of all sizes for a year to solve the problem of libraries being so generous that they are killing sales for publishers and authors. The cooperating libraries seemed fine with the policy, so Macmillan executives were surprised at the ferocity with which it was greeted by public libraries in general.”

Ballard comments “Sargent was ignoring a basic fact of human psychology. The librarians who participated in Macmillan’s focus group were invested in the outcome….. The ones who found out from seeing his terse letter were understandably unhappy to read that libraries are being perceived as the enemy of publishing and that they are being forced to serve up healthy portions of frustration to their patrons.”

Ballard adds “For a policy that Macmillan claims is perfectly reasonable, it hasn’t exactly put it in lights.” Mr. Ballard, I’m surprised you heard him say anything. This is more public comment than anyone in the library world has gotten.

Ballard concludes “With mergers and acquisitions rampant, there are very few publishers left in the business. If four other major players decide this [restricting library access] is the answer they’ve been seeking, the results will make public libraries extremely unhappy. . . . I know that librarians are driven to get good information into the hands of their patrons as quickly and easily as possible. This usually was not seen as a bad thing.”

No doubt we will have to have many negotiations in a complex ecosystem to get to a better place than we are now, but, no, sharing information in a democratic society is not a bad thing. Do readers have to have credit cards to have access? Thanks, Mr. Ballard, for supporting libraries!

All Quiet on the Blackstone Boycott

Our Friends at WCLS report that little is new this week in Blackstone boycott because Blackstone was not responding to queries. Carmi Parker does, however, link to an article from John Warner of the Chicago Tribune about the Macmillan debacle that is worth a read.

Warner asserts “Right now, libraries are in a dispute with publisher Macmillan over e-book purchasing and rights, and today, even though I am a writer of books and enjoy making money from people who buy them, I’d like to publicly declare myself a member of team library when it comes to this particular issue.”

He adds words that will ring true (and sound familiar) to RF news followers:

“Work must be done to find a balance between the interests of publishers, libraries and the public. The truth is, much of this angst is driven by the dominance of Amazon in the e-book market, which allows that behemoth to put the squeeze on publishers.

Publishers turning around and pinching libraries is no solution. In fact, if libraries are degraded, and readers lose their faith that these institutions are worth preserving, publishers will have truly shot themselves in the foot.”

Thanks, Carmi, for posting the article. Mr. Warner, thanks for coming to bat for Team Library.

Monash Study Shows that the "Big 5" Have Destroyed the OC/OU Perpetual Model

Our friends in Australia, the Monash Elending Project, whose pioneering work RF has often cited before, have updated a 2017 study of 100,000 titles with 2019 data. Of particular interest are the 48,794 titles that were published and licensed by the Big 5 publishers. In 2017, 33.8% (16,500) were available in the once-standard One Copy/One User Perpetual License. Two years later, only .4% (199) titles still are.

Please retweet their link, posted above!

It’s not that the OC/OU Perpetual is the only deal libraries want. AS RF has said over and over, a variety of licenses are essential for libraries to be able to use their money wisely and expand our offerings in an increasingly digital world. Taking OC/OU off the table completely, however, jeopardizes long-term access and preservation and commits libraries to perpetual re-ordering.

Publishers, if any of you are listening, here’s a modest proposal from one person. No, it will not be endorsed by every library, or perhaps any, and the suggested price point may be condemned as too expensive by some libraries, but you are obviously concerned about money.

At point-of-sale for first run titles—and no embargoes on libraries, please—you offer us one OC/OU perpetual license at, say, $60. Like Macmillan would have it. You also offer us unlimited licenses of 50 circs at $75, perhaps even with a simultaneous use option. The prices can be adjusted on backlists. You get a known amount per use on the metered licenses. We get some ability to conserve titles and know what we are paying per use. Let’s see how it works.

Can we at least start talking?