Effective immediately, the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) will temporarily stop purchasing newly released print books, e-books, downloadable audio books and books on CD for circulation from Macmillan Publishers and its imprints. Macmillan is one of the country’s five major book publishers. CCPL plans to implement the boycott for at least 12 weeks as part of a national movement to protest Macmillan’s recent business practices toward libraries.
Starting on Nov. 1, Macmillan implemented an embargo on library e-book purchases that prevents libraries of any size from purchasing more than one copy of a newly released e-book for the first eight weeks after publication in order to increase sales.
“CCPL opposes any effort to restrict or delay our ability to provide the public with free and equitable access to information and services,” said CCPL executive director Angela Craig. “Macmillan’s embargo could lead to patrons waiting months or longer for some e-books.”
Craig said it’s also important the public recognize that libraries are not asking for a handout as libraries pay to purchase e-books for lending. In fact, all publishers charge libraries more for an e-book than a consumer pays − often up to five times the retail price of an e-book.
At CCPL between 2018 and 2019, the number of e-books circulated increased by 22%.
In addition to CCPL, public libraries around the state and the country as well as many of their users oppose this embargo. The American Library Association (ALA) has publicly denounced the embargo, and recently launched a national campaign against the new practice. As of Nov. 18, nearly 207,000 people have signed the ALA’s petition at ebooksforall.org urging Macmillan Publishers to lift the embargo and no longer limit access for readers.
“ALA’s goal is to send a clear message to Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent: e-book access should be neither denied nor delayed,” said ALA executive director Mary Ghikas. “Libraries have millions of allies out there, and we’re inviting them to take action.”
Like other libraries participating in the boycott, CCPL hopes this measure will make Macmillan reconsider their embargo and prevent other publishing companies from following suit.
“Public libraries advance literacy and promote a love of reading to our communities,” Craig said. “As we always have, libraries should be working with authors and book publishers to advance those important goals, not against them.”
For a limited period during or after the boycott, patrons may not have access to Macmillan titles. Titles are typically ordered months in advance so the timing of the delays may vary. This will not affect titles already in circulation.
“We ask our patrons to be patient and understand that we are operating in their best interest,” Craig said. “We believe a short-lived inconvenience is worth a potential long-term gain. This embargo by Macmillan sets a dangerous precedent, which could result in influencing other publishers and we must take a stand now before it’s too late.”
For more information about the embargo, including the ALA’s petition against the policy, a list of frequently asked questions, and how patrons can help, visit ccpl.org/boycott.