Beginning today, the Des Moines Public Library will no longer purchase newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers, one of the country’s five major book publishers.
This move is in response to Macmillan’s library eBook embargo, which goes into effect today (Nov. 1), that prevents libraries of any size from purchasing more than one copy of a newly released eBook for the first eight weeks after publication.
The Des Moines Public Library maintains a holds-to-books ratio of 5-to-1, meaning for every five holds placed on a book, we purchase an additional copy to minimize wait times for our patrons. Limiting our ability to purchase additional copies of popular new releases in eBook form could lead to patrons waiting many months, or even a year, for their eBook. We must do better for our communities.
In response, the library will no longer purchase any Macmillan materials that are part of this embargo, and will instead use those funds to purchase unembargoed materials from Macmillan and other publishers.
“The Des Moines Public Library opposes any effort to restrict or delay our ability to provide free and equitable access to information and services,” Des Moines Public Library Director Sue Woody said. “That includes the digital realm, and this book embargo will hit our most vulnerable and disadvantaged patrons – those with disabilities and learning issues, as well as those without the means to purchase these materials outside of the library – the hardest.”
Usage of eBooks and eAudiobooks continues to grow rapidly at the Des Moines Public Library, and we continue to dedicate more funds to purchasing these materials to meet patron demand. Patrons may assume libraries pay the same price for these materials as consumers pay, but that is not the case. Prices for eBooks and eAudiobooks are as much as three to six times higher for a public library than an individual consumer.
For example, a newly released copy of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood last month would have cost a consumer $14.99 for an eBook and $14.95 for an eAudiobook. For the Des Moines Public Library, the price was $59.99 for the eBook version, and $99.99 for the eAudiobook.
In addition, when a library purchases a digital copy of an eBook or eAudiobook, the publisher determines how long the library is allowed to own that item before it must be purchased again.
Public libraries and their users across the United States oppose this embargo, and more than 170,000 people have signed a petition at ebooksforall.org to tell Macmillan Publishers to lift the embargo and no longer limit access for readers.
“Public libraries advance literacy and promote a love of reading to our communities, and we should be viewed as partners with authors and book publishers to advance those important goals, not competitors,” Woody said.