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Statewide Online Services News

Statewide Services covers Online Resources (databases), Digital Book eLending (ebooks, audiobooks, video storybooks) and the Kansas Library eCard. 

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Dec 04

State Library of Kansas' Boycott of New Macmillan eBooks

Posted on December 4, 2019 at 3:51 PM by Andy Schafer

As you may have heard or read about, Macmillan Publishers, beginning on November 1st of this year, has placed an embargo on the sale of new eBooks to libraries. The company now limits libraries to the purchase of one copy of each new eBook for the first eight weeks after publication. The idea behind the new policy is to create longer holds lists in order to frustrate library patrons to the point where they’ll purchase a copy of the eBook rather than wait until it becomes available through their library.

Macmillan’s CEO, John Sargent, has stated that it is his company’s belief that increases in the library market have directly resulted in decreases in the consumer market. The embargo seeks to correct this perceived imbalance. However, Macmillan isn’t telling the whole story. The library market for eBooks is already heavily skewed in publishers’ favor. Libraries typically pay a higher price for books, including eBooks. For example, while an individual can currently purchase the eBook version of New York Times bestseller Do You Mind If I Cancel? for $14.99 and be able to read the book as many times as they want and with no expiration date, libraries are charged $60.00 for one copy of this title which will expire 2 years after the date it was purchased, requiring libraries to repurchase the book if they want to continue making it available to patrons. Contrary to Mr. Sargent’s assertion that libraries discourage patrons from purchasing books, libraries offer free and enthusiast marketing of books. Library’s Journal’s recent Generational Reading Survey found that 42% of adults purchased the same book they had borrowed from a library. Additionally, 70% reported that they had bought another book by an author whose work they previously borrowed from a library.

The State Library of Kansas seeks to provide equitable access to resources for all Kansans. We are also very mindful of being good stewards of public funds. Embargos and unreasonable license terms such as those Macmillan has enacted negatively affect our ability to accomplish these goals. For this reason, after much consideration, the State Library of Kansas has decided to participate in a boycott of Macmillan and all of its subsidiaries and imprints. To be clear, the boycott will only affect the purchase of new eBook titles from Macmillan Publishers. We will continue to purchase Macmillan’s digital audiobooks as the terms on these licenses have not changed. Requests for Macmillan eBooks will still be honored, though we will confirm that the patron is aware of the boycott and the undue burden Macmillan has placed on libraries prior to fulfilling these requests. To learn more about the situation, go to