Book publishers putting embargo on libraries
By Timothy G. Kambitsch
Librarians aren’t known for being angry with book publishers. However, readers and library patrons will share our ire when they understand how publishers are placing artificial constraints on how we buy electronic copies of popular new titles.

Macmillan, one of the world’s largest publishing companies, has announced it will embargo libraries from buying eBooks and eAudiobooks during the first eight weeks following release of the same works on Amazon and other channels.

This new policy applies to all libraries, but it mostly affects large public systems like Dayton Metro, which serves hundreds of thousands of cardholders.

A core library tenet is the commitment to giving patrons what they want in the formats they want, and residents value the shared investment we make on their behalf. It is the essence of the public library. We know that people expect to access our collections through electronic formats so they can read on their tablets and listen in their cars. Electronic formats are not just for high-tech users. We’ve heard from elderly and sight-constrained residents that eBooks, and eAudiobooks are critical for fully experiencing their world.

Libraries have already made significant accommodations to publishers.

We pay higher costs for ebooks, often four times the list price. We’ve endured limits, such as having our right to lend eBooks expire after a fixed time period. To paraphrase a colleague, it is ridiculous to charge public libraries $60 for one copy of a book and have it disappear in two years. Overcharging libraries is crazy enough, but to refuse to sell us copies we are willing to purchase is ludicrous.

Libraries are a part of a large community that includes writers, publishers and readers. We want everyone to be successful.

Macmillan is being shortsighted.

They suggest sales of eBooks to libraries are taking income away from writers, but have failed to share sales data to demonstrate that claim, and they forget librarians are a huge source of recommendations.

Libraries’ shelves are filled with titles that never get displayed in bookstores.

Embargoing public libraries may increase short term profits for publishers, but it strikes a blow against the equity and access at the heart of public libraries.

No publisher has ever undertaken what Macmillan is attempting, but if successful other publishers will follow suit. Could Macmillan lead publishers to impose these same constraints to other formats?

Librarians are angry and frustrated, but so are readers.

When I alerted Dayton Metro Library patrons recently about Macmillan’s embargo, many asked me personally, “What can I do?” The American Library Association and a coalition of partners have opened a web site, www., specifically to petition Macmillan CEO John Sargent. I ask you to sign on and use the hashtag #ebooksforall on social media.

Unless we are successful patrons won’t find electronic copies of upcoming releases such as Nora Roberts’ “The Rise of Magicks,” Nikki Haley’s “With All Due Respect,” or “Conversations with RBG,” by Jeffery Rosen.

Timothy G. Kambitsch is executive director of the Dayton Metro Library system.

Embargoing public libraries may increase short term profits for publishers, but it strikes a blow against equity and access at the heart of public libraries.