Greenwich Library Will Boycott Macmillan Publishers Book Embargo

Effective November 18, 2019, Greenwich Library and its two branches, Cos Cob and Byram, will no longer acquire newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers, one of the five major publishers in the U.S. The decision comes after Macmillan’s new lending model went into effect on November 1, imposing arbitrary restrictions on library eBook lending and limiting the ability of Greenwich Library to fully service our community in an increasingly digital world.

Under the revised Macmillan policy, a library (regardless of size) may purchase only one copy of a newly released title in eBook format, after which Macmillan will impose an eight-week embargo on additional eBook copies of that title sold to the library.

“This embargo would create unreasonable wait times for newly released eBooks and make it difficult for the library to accomplish its goal of providing a robust digital library,” said Greenwich Library Director Barbara Ormerod-Glynn. “If other publishers followed suit, it would profoundly change the digital lending library and severely impede our mission to provide equal access to information and content for all.”

In fiscal year 2018, Greenwich Library leased about 550 eBooks from MacMillan, almost 10 percent of the number of eBooks it leased in all. “We regret having to boycott, but access to information is very important to our mission and we take seriously a policy that will not allow us to provide that access,” said Eric McCarthy, Greenwich Library’s Manager of Resources Management. “We choose to work with publishers and vendors that allow us to meet our patrons’ expectations. It can be really frustrating for patrons if there are 20 holds on one copy of an eBook. That’s the kind of situation we always hope to avoid.”

While the circulation of eBooks from Greenwich Library has grown almost 50 percent in the last five years, the embargo particularly harms library patrons with visual disabilities, as one of the exciting features of eBooks is that they can become large-print books with only a few clicks. Most eBook readers offer fonts and line spacing that make reading easier for people who have dyslexia or other visual challenges.

The American Library Association (ALA) has also denounced Macmillan’s decision, and the ALA has actively advocated for its reversal before it went into effect. Greenwich Library joins many other library systems in the country, including Nashville Public Library, The Columbus Metropolitan Library, the King County Library System and the Connecticut State Library that are also boycotting Macmillan’s embargo.

Greenwich Library will divert eBook funds to other publishers who are willing to lend without an embargo and will continue to lease Macmillan print books and eAudiobooks

For more information, or to join a growing list of individuals taking a stand against Macmillan’s embargo and show your support for public libraries, please visit the ALA’s #eBooksForAll campaign at ebooksforall.org.