April 15, 2014

Macmillan Confirms Ebook Pilot for Libraries

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Macmillan is working on a pilot project that will test lending of its ebook titles at libraries, the publisher confirmed in a statement to Publisher’s Weekly today. Details of the project remained undisclosed.

“We have been working hard to develop an e-book lending model that works for all parties, as we value the libraries and the role they play in the reading community,” Macmillan wrote PW in a prepared statement. “We are currently finalizing the details of our pilot program and will be announcing it when we are ready, and not in reaction to a demand.”

Macmillan is the second Big Six publisher to dip a toe back in the waters of library ebook lending in recent months, following Penguin’s pilot test with the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and 3M’s new cloud library platform. However, these major publishers continue to make their purchase and lending terms difficult, and other ebook news from the Big Six has been a mixed bag at best: Hachette—which only makes a limited number of ebook titles from its back catalog available to libraries—announced a 104 percent price increase this month, following the lead of Random House, which tripled the prices that librarians must pay for ebooks in March. HarperCollins continues to impose a 26 loan limit on ebook titles sold to libraries.

Ahead of a new round of talks with publishers this week, American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan released an open letter regarding the refusal of publishers to provide access to ebooks for libraries.

“It’s a rare thing in a free market when a customer is refused the ability to buy a company’s product and is told its money is ‘no good here,’” she wrote. “Surprisingly, after centuries of enthusiastically supporting publishers’ products, libraries find themselves in just that position with purchasing ebooks from three of the largest publishers in the world. Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin have been denying access to their ebooks for our nation’s 112,000 libraries and roughly 169 million public library users.”

If Macmillan and Penguin’s programs succeed and expand beyond the pilot phase, Simon & Schuster will be the last remaining Big Six publisher to refuse to sell ebooks to libraries entirely.

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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