Recent changes to the way publishers allow libraries to purchase eBooks may be impacting your ability to find titles in OverDrive and other eBook and audiobook collections. Below, we have tried to answer some questions that patrons may have.
Why does the BPL only have one copy of the title I want to borrow?
Several publishers have recently announced changes to their lending terms that restrict libraries’ ability to purchase the materials their patrons want.
As of Friday, November 1, Macmillan, one of the largest publishers in the United States, has launched an eBook embargo. This means that all public libraries—no matter their size—can only purchase one copy of each new release of an eBook for the first two months after the book is published.
For the Boston Public Library, that means that only one copy of Macmillan’s new releases will be available to our 321,501 cardholders until the embargo lifts.
Why are publishers doing this?
Some publishers believe that library patrons will not wait and will instead buy their own copy of the book.
Many of our patrons are economically disadvantaged or simply prefer to borrow material from the library. Buying eBooks and e-audiobooks is simply not an option for many library users; restrictive purchasing models and inflated pricing for libraries decreases access and presents a major barrier to our mission of remaining “Free to All.”
In addition, publishers have argued that they are restricting access to only one format (electronic or printed) of these books. But both eBooks and e-audiobooks increase accessibility for users who may have physical conditions that affect their ability to read other formats. Digital access also helps users who cannot easily visit the library in person
Shouldn’t publishers be allowed to decide what their pricing model is? Won’t this make more money for authors?
We support writers, creators and publishers, and believe they should all be allowed to profit from their works. But these restrictions increase disparity in our communities, both in Boston and across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Libraries already pay more than retail for access to eBooks and downloadable audio. Costs may approach nearly 80 dollars for one copy of a best-selling fiction title. In addition, access to these books generally expires after either 24 months, or 52 checkouts.
There is also evidence that library patrons are in fact also avid book purchasers. For example, a 2019 survey of generational reading habits conducted by Library Journal found that 42 percent of millennial readers said they turn to the library in order to “take a chance on a new author or book I never heard of for free.” But notably, once they have borrowed that book, 77 percent of them go on to purchase additional books by the same author. Libraries are more often a great marketing channel for authors and publishers rather than simple competition, while the library market and its combined purchasing power represents a significant channel for publishers
What are libraries doing about this?
The Boston Public Library is joining many other libraries across the country in objecting to these changes.
We urge publishers to consider the impact of these embargoes on readers, and we are encouraging our patrons to also let publishers know that these restrictions are unfair to readers and actually limit the reach and availability of authors’ works.
Libraries across the country are so concerned about the impact of these practices on our patrons that the American Library Association has released a report urging lawmakers to curb anti-competitive practices of digital market actors. The report addresses publishers’ abusive pricing and restrictive licensing terms for libraries.
What can I do about this?
Anyone who wishes to contact the publishers directly to voice their opinion as book readers about these changes can use the following contact information:
Email Blackstone Audio directly at: email@example.com
Email Macmillan directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org