As Boycotts Mount, Macmillan CEO defends library e-book embargo

There was no meeting of the spirits, but at least there was a meeting. Just days after Macmillan’s controversial two-month embargo on new e-books in public libraries took effect, CEO John Sargent met with a delegation of state librarians, backing his claim that the new e-books eBooks in libraries hurt publisher’s income.

“Sir. Sargent shared with COSLA Macmillan the concern that e-book sales increase in public libraries but decline with consumers,” a statement from COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library Agencies) noted, summing up the meeting closely. half-hour event, which took place Nov. 4, at the Fall COSLA Membership Meeting in Hartford, CT. “He compared the e-book market to that of big movies in that new releases have the greatest value in their first few weeks and that their initial release is expected to yield the greatest creative and business return on investment. The availability of eBooks in libraries, which can be viewed as free, is, according to Macmillan, the main driver of the decline in consumption.

Sargent also reiterated another “often-voiced claim,” the statement said, that the availability of e-books in libraries “devalues” the book.

In one of the few findings based on data publicly shared by Macmillan officials over the past 16+ months, dating back to the start of his Tor experiment, Sargent reportedly told the group of about 10 state librarians that, Based on “anecdotal” data, Macmillan estimates that “if library users cannot access a new eBook from their library, 8% of those waiting will likely buy the eBook.”

In their release, state librarians rebuffed Sargent’s arguments.

“Typical eBook loan periods are 2-3 weeks,” noted COSLA President and Hawaii State Librarian Stacey Aldrich. “It’s unlikely that a single e-book purchased by a library at 3 or 4 times the price of a mainstream book will circulate more than 2.5 times in the first eight weeks, thus draining potential buyers. is insignificant during e-books. “Most valuable sales period. “

“Libraries pay higher prices for eBooks,” added Cindy Aden, chair of the COSLA eBook Engagement Group and Washington State Librarian. “We question the logic that a publisher would make significant income by limiting sales to libraries. In our experience, few readers facing wait times for a new version would choose to purchase the book directly from the library. instead of waiting, even if these waiting times are important.

Moreover, “contrary to the assumption made by Mr. Sargent according to which availability in libraries has a negative impact on book sales,” the statement continued: “COSLA believes that library availability strengthens readership, educates authors, publishers, booksellers and the entire ecosystem, positively impacting sales.

Meanwhile, in a separate blog post, Mark Smith, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives, who was at COSLA’s meeting with Sargent, said the librarians in the room “didn’t buy.” Sargent’s arguments.

We question the logic that a publisher would make significant revenue by limiting sales to libraries.

“While it is undeniable that the cost of e-books is untenable, that usage tends to increase, and that library budgets are stretched to the limit, we have expressed our skepticism that a reader who does not can borrow a copy of an e-book from the library to purchase the article, ”Smith writes. “We also questioned the hypothesis of an inverse correlation between library circulation and publisher revenues. We questioned the data upon which Macmillan’s decisions were based. And we’ve noted that many libraries will stop purchasing material from Macmillan, although Mr. Sargent seems confident that the impact of the boycotts will be offset by higher revenues for authors and publishers.

As of this writing, dozens of library systems (and more is going) are boycotting embargoed Macmillan eBooks, including some large statewide multi-library consortia.

In a statement released this week, Multonomah County (Oregon) Library Director Vailey Oehlke captured the thought behind the boycotts (and also offered her patrons a practical explanation).

“This is not a decision we take lightly. It means the library has chosen to oppose a specific business, which I would prefer to avoid. Our decision also means that some library users will not be able to. access popular authors in their preferred format and I regret it, “Oehlke wrote, adding that” when you can only buy something from one source and the terms of that purchase become so unreasonable, it is time not to say more “.

In the first 10 months of 2019, Multonomah has already purchased nearly $ 120,000 in e-book access from Macmillan, Oehlke reports.

COSLA says the two sides have agreed to “explore e-book pricing models” and to continue “to try to find ways to understand the perceived problem.” But it seems fair to say that despite the meeting, Macmillan librarians and officials remain distant.

Sir. Sargent seemed eager to describe the problem from his perspective and open to considering alternative models presented by others, acknowledging that the current embargo model may not be the ‘right one’ model, “says COSLA.” He expressed confidence in [the embargo], however, and determining whether this will boost e-book sales to consumers. “

Then, in his October 30 open letter, Sargent said he and Macmillan executives would be traveling to the ALA mid-winter meeting in Philadelphia in January, to hear directly from more librarians.

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