EBooks aren’t just popular, they are the fastest growing segment of our collection. But what library patrons don’t know is that eBooks are significantly more expensive for us to acquire than print editions.
While there is no one model for the purchasing of eBooks by libraries, most titles run in the $50 range. For that price we receive one copy that we can typically lend for only two years before we have to purchase it again. Of course, just like a print book, that copy can be borrowed by only one reader at a time. And, just like print, when a book is popular, libraries purchase multiple copies to satisfy their readers.
Recently, Macmillan—a huge publisher with many imprints—has unveiled a new model that will be effective November 1st. Under this model, a library can acquire only one copy of a new title in eBook format, after which Macmillan is imposing an eight-week embargo before a library can purchase additional copies. For popular titles, this means that eBook readers will wait far longer to borrow a copy than before. It is sure to create frustration among library users and risks making the library less relevant to readers.
The American Library Association (ALA) has launched a national campaign, including an online petition for the public to urge Macmillan to reverse the proposed embargo. “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.