Macmillan updates

As of 2/21/2020

We learned of several new libraries this week, including one statewide consortium:

Library or Consortium Location Libraries or Branches Population served
Plumas County LibraryPlumas County, CA418,800
Newton Free LibraryNewton, MA188,900
Ocean State LibrariesRhode Island491,057,000

Note: this week and last week, we also heard from two libraries who have suspended purchases but asked not to be listed in association with the term “boycott.” Their locations and service area populations are included in our totals.

Update to financial impact analysis:

You may recall that in January, we published a financial impact analysis measuring how close we are to a tipping point where Macmillan begins to lose money on the embargo strategy.

We believe we have now reached and passed that point. The theory was this: if 10% of libraries suspend their purchases of Macmillan eBooks, it will “zero out” any new revenue that the embargo generates from libraries conducting business-as-usual.

In the 2017 IMLS Public Libraries survey, 7162 libraries recorded spending on electronic materials. As of this week, 889 of those libraries have suspended their Macmillan eBook purchases, for a total of 12.4%. What’s more, these libraries represent 14% of the $374 million total spent on electronic resources.

In other words, we believe the embargo strategy is now a losing proposition.

As of 2/14/2020

We learned this week of four more libraries that have ceased to purchase Macmillan eBooks.

Library or ConsortiumLocationLibraries or BranchesPopulation served
Schertz Public LibrarySchertz, TX141,000
Pleasanton Public LibraryPleasanton, TX110,800
Butte County LibraryButte County, CA6229,200
Benicia Public LibraryBenicia, CA128,300

In other news:

ALA Senior Director of Public Policy Alan Inuoye had a strong op-ed in The Hill this week calling for legislative solutions to eBook access inequities.

Good eReader published a letter that OverDrive CEO Steve Potash sent to libraries in response to OverDrive’s acquisition by KKR, a private equity firm. Regarding embargoes, Potash said:

We strongly oppose any embargo or limitation on an institution’s right to acquire every digital title published under fair terms. We advocate with authors, agents, and publishers that their economic interests are best served when their works are easily discovered and available to borrow from every library in every format. 

Potash did come out strongly against the embargo in his personal blog, but this is the first time (as far as I know) that he has spoken on the topic on behalf of the company.

As of 2/7/2020

Again, no new libraries this week, but Google Analytics shows that traffic to the Macmillan-related pages on this site has increased in the last week in comparison to the two weeks prior, so the buzz continues. Thank you for sharing the information with your colleagues!

  • Last week, we speculated that Macmillan might exchange the embargo for increased prices. In response, we heard back from two people who are close to the talks with Macmillan. They agreed that there is a good possibility that Macmillan will drop the embargo but impose a significant price increase instead.
  • Legislative advocacy continued this week as the Rhode Island Library Association hosted Congressman David Cicilline for a round table on the topic of eBook access. Mr. Cicilline said, “As the Chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee leading a bipartisan investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace, I’m particularly interested in potentially anticompetitive practices harming libraries”. The round table follows on the excellent report that ALA presented to the House Judiciary Committee last October.
  • New OverDrive Marketplace features make it easier to filter out items by publisher, so we added a doc to the toolkit to walk selectors through how they work.

As of 1/31/2020

We did not learn of any libraries to add to our list, but it was an exciting week nonetheless. Here is a news round-up:

  • ALA released it’s response to John Sargent’s presentation at ALAMW before the presentation was even complete (!), an effective way of showing as well as telling the depth of its frustration with the company.
  • The same day, Texas State Library and Archives Director Mark D. Smith published his thoughtful take on the meeting. The paragraph on library leverage is especially interesting.
  • Publishers Weekly and InfoToday.com both published detailed articles, which are worth reading for their different perspectives.
  • Finally, in an resounding announcement, Digital Book World banned Macmillan from attending its annual conference until it drops the embargo.

As of 1/24/2020

We learned of five systems this week that stopped purchasing as of Nov 1.

Library or Consortium Location Libraries or branches Population served
City of Calabasas LibraryCalabasas, CA124,000
Pamunkey Regional LibraryCentral VA10154,000
Blue Ridge Download ConsortiumNorthwest VA16414,000
Richmond Public LibraryRichmond, VA9229,000
Newport News Public LibraryNewport News, VA5179,000

Impact analysis: Our detailed boycott impact analysis received 438 page views in the last week, and we have received positive feedback from several libraries. The shorter version that we published on ReadersFirst was picked up by InfoToday.com as well as a blog/bargain eBook site called The Fussy Librarian.

Reader behavior: For those interested in data on how people like to read, how they choose what to read, where they go for books, how they use the library, and much more, the Library Journal summary of their generational reading survey is highly recommended.

Amazon’s influence: If you are generally interested in how Amazon is changing traditional publishing, take a look at this article in The New Republic, “Can Amazon Finally Crack the Bestseller Code?” It references a WSJ article that is also worth reading, “Amazon Publishes Books by Top Authors, and Rivals Fret.” (If you hit a WSJ paywall like me, you can dust off your database searching chops and read it in Proquest.)

As of 1/17/2019

Two new systems this week, bringing the total to 79.

Library or Consortium LocationLibraries or branches Population served
Anoka County LibraryAnoka County, MN8340,000
Merrimack Valley Library ConsortiumNorthern MA36779,000

Is the boycott working?

We published a brief analysis of the boycott impact so far on ReadersFirst, and it was quoted in the Publishers WeeklyThis Week in Libraries” column. In short, we believe we are close to the “tipping point” where Macmillan’s anticipated revenue from the embargo flattens and begins to fall.

The brief is intended for general consumption. We also have an in-depth analysis targeted to libraries, including:

  • Financial impact on Macmillan
  • Impact on circulation
  • Responses from patrons
  • Other FAQs

Those with questions about this analysis are welcome to ask them here.

As of 1/10/2019

We learned of three new library systems in the last few weeks, bringing our total to 77. We are closing in on a service area population of 48 million, which is equivalent to the combined populations of California and New York City.

Library or Consortium LocationLibraries or branchesPopulation served
First Regional LibraryFive counties in NW Mississippi, including suburbs of Memphis 14300,000
Dedham Public LibraryDedham, MA225,000
Oakland Public LibraryOakland, CA16429,000

New flavor of boycott: Oakland’s boycott is “limited” to only the single discount copy (no full price added copies) and will be in effect only through May.

eBook reader survey results: Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock, WA, has published the results of it’s survey on eBook reader behavior. The survey had 891 responses and includes information such as:

  • Whether readers usually begin their experience by browsing lists or searching for a specific author or title
  • How often readers use the “Currently Available” filter
  • Tolerance for various hold waiting periods
  • What readers do after choosing not to place a hold (Buy the book? Find another eBook to read? Place a hold on the print format?)

Troubling take on legislative solutions: If you did not get a chance to read this article from WGBH Boston, it includes analysis from a Harvard antitrust expert suggesting that maybe libraries are being “undercharged” for eBooks. This thinking only works if you accept the premise that publishers should be compensated at full price for every eBook “read.” Even publishers don’t believe that anymore — if they did, they wouldn’t have decided to go into eLending at all. Still, it’s good for us to be aware of the argument, especially if we are working on legislative advocacy.

As of 12/20/2019

Ten more systems came to our attention this week, so there are now 74 library systems and consortia suspending the purchase Macmillan’ eBooks. These represent 1,144 library locations in 26 states, and serve over 46 million U.S. residents, approximately 14% of the total population.

Library or Consortium Location Libraries or branches Population served
Connecticut State LibraryHartford, CTn/a3,537,000
South Carolina State LibraryColumbia, SCn/a5,084,000
Handley Regional Library SystemWinchester, VA3131,000
Chesapeake Public Library Chesapeake, VA7250,000
James L. Hamner Public LibraryAmelia County, VA112,900
Massanutten Regional LibraryCity of Harrisonburg and Rockingham and Page Counties, VA7158,000
San Diego Public LibrarySan Diego, CA361,426,000
Santa Cruz Public LibrariesSanta Cruz, CA10214,000
The Public Library of BrooklineBrookline, MA359,000
North Carolina Digital LibraryNC233,368,000

#eBooksforall update: As you may know, several library luminaries put together a webinar with the latest on the #eBooksforall campaign. Here is the recording. It’s almost an hour long, but worth watching. Three items of special note:

  • Lisa Rosenblum, Director of King County Library System, one of the first to boycott, speaks about her library’s rationale for ceasing purchases. She also points out that while we would never have chosen the embargo, the news coverage has given us a chance to show tens of millions of people, many who do not use the library, how hard we work to advocate for our reading communities and use public funds wisely.
  • Hallie Rich, Director of Communications & External Relations at Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library, presents on a project to put dollar amounts on how much their author event social media posts, direct emails, etc. would be worth if the publishers were buying them as advertising. You can reproduce this at your own library using the spreadsheet shared on the webinar site. (Her presentation starts around the 33 minute mark.)
  • Ramiro Salazar, President of PLA and Director of San Antonio Public Library, says in the Q&A that PLA has requested the data that Macmillan cites showing that libraries cannibalize sales, and that John Sargent has agreed to deliver it.

Note: the webinar host mentions that ALA and PLA representatives are unable to discuss the boycott because of their tax status. I respect that necessity, and know that several libraries are likewise uncomfortable with the term. I considered removing it from the site, but decided to keep it because “boycott” is the Google search term most likely to be used by interested journalists, authors, library staff, and publishers who want information.

Data from Indianapolis: Indianapolis Public Library was one of the top 30 libraries by eSpending in 2017. It details some of the trends it has seen in the last several years in this article in the Indiana Business Journal, with illustrative charts.

Indianapolis Public Library is responding to publisher restrictions by adjusting “its default lending period for e-books and e-audiobooks, from 21 days to 14 days, and it’s lowered the limits on how many e-materials patrons can check out and put on hold.”

Note: my consortium considered changing our checkout maximum to 14 days, but found that almost half of our patrons manually switch from the 14 day default to 21.

Embargoed Tor titles: where are they now? In an effort to understand better the impact of embargoes, several libraries in U.S. and Canada are contributing data to an analysis of Tor purchases and circulation before and after the 2018 “experiment”. Stay tuned for results in early – mid January, and many thanks to our cheerful contributors thus far:

  • eLibraryNJ
  • Maryland’s Digital Library
  • Sacramento Public Library
  • San Antonio Public Library
  • Seattle Public Library
  • Toronto Public Library
  • Washington Digital Library Consortium

As of 12/13/2019

We learned this week about 10 more systems or consortia that are not purchasing Macmillan:

Library or Consortium Location Libraries or branches Population served
State Library of KansasKSn/a2,910,000
Florence County Library SystemFlorence County, SC6138,000
Colleton County Memorial LibraryColleton County, SC239,000
Bergen County Cooperative Library SystemNorthern NJ771,300,000
York County LibraryYork County, SC5274,000
Oconee County Public LibraryOconee County, SC478,000
Greenwich LibraryGreenwich, CT363,000
Cranston Public LibraryCranston, RI682,000
Marion County Library SystemMarion County, SC331,000
Horry County Library SystemHorry County, SC10344,000

New information on the charge that eLending cannabalizes sales: The LA Times published a fascinating article about eReading behavior in California where residents can use multiple library cards. Readers who were surveyed indicate that they are not buying fewer books; they are simply reading more.

“Rather than undermining sales, readers said, borrowing brought literature into their digital diets, displacing podcasts and Instagram with new authors and genres they otherwise never would have picked up. For some card collectors, rediscovering the library through e-borrowing has been so profound that it feels almost spiritual.”

This video says it all: Charleston County Public Library in South Carolina published a video that explains the Macmillan embargo in terms all ages will understand: cupcakes.

Cranston Public Library is the first from Rhode Island to join and is taking an extra step in their physical locations, stating that they are “not promoting or displaying any Macmillan titles to our patrons.”

Video update on #ebooksforall: You may have seen that PLA is hosting a webinar on Tuesday that will update everyone on the #ebooksforall campaign, as well as the legislative advocacy that ALA is doing. The webinar is full, but I will get a link to the recording and share it here next week.

As of 12/6/2019

We have confirmed a total of 45 library systems who are not purchasing Macmillan eBooks far, and we expect more next week. If you know of a library that is not listed, please let us know. Over the last two weeks, we confirmed:

Library or Consortium Location Libraries or branches Population served
WVREADS consortiumWV27697,000
Georgetown County Public LibraryGeorgetown County, SC462,000
Kentucky Libraries Unbound consortiumKY105TBD
Utah’s Online LibraryUT691,480,000
North Dakota State LibraryBismarck, NDn/a250,000
Anderson County Library SystemAnderson County, SC8200,400
Lexington County Public Library SystemLexington County, SC10295,000
Oconee County Public LibraryOconee County, SC478,000
Greenwood County Library SystemGreenwood County, SC371,000
Connecticut State LibraryHartford, CTn/aTBD
North Dakota Digital ConsortiumND42TBD

Total population impact: Several people have asked about the total population served. It is hard to measure, because I don’t have the service area population for several large consortia, but the numbers we have currently total ~32 million people. That’s more than the total population of Texas (the second most populous state in the US after California)!

South Carolina doubles down: There are several new South Carolina libraries who have, like Charleston County Public Library, decided not to buy any Macmillan titles in any format for 12 weeks. I have asked the librarians to keep me posted on the patron response so that we can all learn from this impressive protest.

Washington Post article: You may have seen this article on library eBooks in the Washington Post; it is worth a read. I asked my OverDrive rep about the super-users with lots of library cards, since I believe that this phenomenon is something that Macmillan cited as an issue in its letter to authors. Our rep said he believes “the examples of ‘hacking’ are rare and not at all the norm even for avid readers.” My own consortium does not lend eBooks to reciprocal borrower accounts because of the expense. The LA Times survey I mentioned in the last post is also an attempt to understand this multi-card borrowing behavior. Those reporters are exploring whether they can share their survey data with us. If yes, I will add it to a future post.

As of 11/22/2019

The number of participating libraries and consortia has been up and down this week as I have been confirming which have ceased purchasing eBooks. Currently, we are at 38. Below are the libraries I learned about this week.

Library or Consortium LocationLibraries or branches Population served
eLibraryNJNew Jersey702,660,000
Nevada County Community LibraryNevada County, CA6100,000
San Antonio Public LibrarySan Antonio, TX311,532,000
Charleston County Public LibraryCharleston County, SC19406,000
Poudre River Public Library DistrictFort Collins, CO3192,000
White Plains Public LibraryWhite Plains, NY160,000
Larchmont Public LibraryLarchmont, NY117,000

Many libraries may be wondering: now that the embargo has begun, what’s next? It seems clear that Macmillan is not willing to budge for now, but we are continuing to collaborate, gather data, and work toward solutions:

Libraries across the country continue to contribute to news stories. With every story, we signal to Macmillan and the other publishers that public libraries care deeply about these issues and will not let them blow over.

I particularly enjoyed this patron comment on a press release from Mid-Continent Public Library, a large system serving the Kansas City area:

Macmillan’s approach is ridiculous…I read my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book in March 2019 through the library. I loved it – Daisy Jones and the Six – so much, I bought it. Then I bought 5 more books by this author. Public Libraries expose me to new authors that I would otherwise not consider.

If you are interested in following the news coverage, Alan Inouye’s Twitter feed is a good source. If you use a search engine, I find Bing returns better results than Google News in this case, since the latter weighs local results heavily.

ALA is continuing its legislative advocacy with the House Judiciary Committee, working now with individual Congresspeople on the committee who have expressed interest in learning more from us. (If you have not read the report that ALA submitted to the committee, it is well worth the time.)

The L.A. Times has conducted a survey of library card usage in the L.A area. I have asked the reporters if they are willing to share the results since many of the questions relate to eBook consumption.

If you’re’ thinking about attending ALA Midwinter, insiders tell me that eBooks will be a hot topic this year.

No update next week since it’s a holiday.

As of 11/15/2019

We learned of five more library systems who have chosen not to purchase Macmillan eBooks. If you know of a system that is not listed, we are happy to add it. Just let us know here.

Library or ConsortiumLocationLibraries or branchesPopulation served
Luzerne County Library Luzerne County, PA10320,000
Alexandria LibraryAlexandria, VA5161,000
Sutter County LibrarySutter County, CA397,000
Sacramento Public LibrarySacramento, CA28501,000
Omaha Public LibraryOmaha, NE12562,000

Additionally, the embargo and boycotts continue to receive attention in the press, including a Library Journal article.

Many libraries are adding notification about the embargo to their OverDrive sites. Timberland Regional Library is using its notification space to explain publisher restrictions and educate patrons. They have received positive emails from patrons in response.

Here is Multnomah County Library’s version linking to its eloquent explanation from its director.

Other libraries use the space to point to #ebooksforall, which is now over 204,000 signatures. While the petition has been delivered to Macmillan, ALA would like library supporters to continue to sign. Adding it to your OverDrive site is a great way to do that. To have a message added, just contact your OverDrive account representative and let them know what you want it to say.

Finally, Kirkwood Library in Missouri made this cool infographic illustrating what happens to readers of embargoed books.

As of 11/8/2019

At the time of this posting, we know of 26 library systems or consortia who have chosen to not to purchase Macmillan eBooks.

Here is a Publishers Weekly editorial from King County Library System, Timberland Regional Library, and Washington Digital Library Consortium on why we choose to boycott.

Library or ConsortiumLocationLibraries or branchesPopulation served
Berks County Library SystemBerks County, PA20400,000
Yolo County LibraryYolo County, CA9220,000
King County Library SystemKing County, WA501,500,000
Washington Digital Library ConsortiumWashington21820,000
Arkansas Digital Library ConsortiumArkansas343,014,000
Cedar Rapids Public LibraryCedar Rapids, IA2132,000
Columbus Metropolitan Library (Digital Downloads Collaboration)Columbus, OH18893,000
Des Moines Public LibraryDes Moines, IA6218,000
Libraries of Middlesex Automation ConsortiumNew Jersey32843,000
Nashville Public LibraryNashville, TN211,500,000
New Orleans Public LibraryNew Orleans, LA14391,000
Somerset County Library SystemSomerset, NJ12330,000
Timberland Regional LibraryOlympia, WA27500,000
Wisconsin Public Library ConsortiumWisconsin225,814,000
Monroe County, NYRochester, NY33744,344
Multnomah County LibraryPortland, OR22812,000
Bucks County Free LibraryBucks County, PA 7628,000
Chesterfield County Public LibraryChesterfield County, VA11349,000
Estes Valley LibraryEstes Park, CO112,000
Fairfax County Public Library, VAFairfax County, VA231,151,000
Houston Public Library Houston, TX442,313,000
San Jose Public LibrarySan Jose, CA251,030,000
Public Libraries of Suffolk CountySuffolk County, NY551,481,000
Topeka and Shawnee County Public LibraryTopeka and Shawnee County, KS1177,000
Virginia Beach Public LibraryVirginia Beach, VA10450,000
Napa Valley Unified School DistrictNapa, CAn/a16,750