Macmillan’s ebook embargo

Seeing Krysta’s post about the embargo reminded me I had things to say about this. Her post has so much information in it so I’d recommend checking it out.

I use the library’s ebook and audiobook services quite a bit. We have Overdrive and Axis360, which is more of a lucky day program where you can only check out one book at a time and can’t put holds on anything. Because my library card is attached to these I got this glorious email:

Because of your interest in ebooks, digital audiobooks, and Wisconsin’s Digital Library, we wanted to share some information about Macmillan publishing.

Macmillan is taking steps to limit libraries’ purchasing of their ebooks and digital audiobooks for 8 weeks after titles are published. This change will impact how quickly you will be able to read any new titles from Macmillan in Wisconsin’s Digital Library.

We’ve prepared a brief Q&A below about the change.  We hope you’ll take the time to read it, take action if you are so motivated, and share it with others.


What’s happening with Macmillan? 
Macmillan, one of the “Big 5” publishers in the United States and publisher to many best selling authors, including Stephen King and Nora Roberts, has decided to severely limit the number of e-book and digital audiobook copies that libraries are able to purchase in the first eight weeks after a title’s publication. This is called an “embargo.” After this embargo period, libraries will be able to provide full access to these titles, but at increased prices.

What does this mean for Wisconsin’s Digital Library patrons?
There will be extremely limited access to Macmillan titles the first eight weeks after publication. We will be allowed to purchase 16 copies of any title for the entire state.  Assuming two-week lending periods, only 84 patrons in Wisconsin will have the opportunity to read these titles during the first eight weeks.

Hold times for Macmillan titles will increase. Because there will be more unmet demand from the first eight weeks of publication, hold lines will be longer unless we choose to purchase many more copies of Macmillan titles. It’s unlikely that we will choose to spend more money with Macmillan, given their unfriendly policies toward libraries.  We want to invest money with publishers that support libraries and library patrons. We may be making purchasing choices to redirect money away from Macmillan.

What can I do to help? 
The American Library Association (ALA) has a petition that you can sign to tell Macmillan you don’t agree with this policy.

Background info:

Now, there is a super long article about the reasoning and effects of this embargo here. But here’s basically why this is a bad idea in case you’re new to the way ebooks work within library systems from my understanding.

Basically, each publishing house is different. Some give you unlimited reads for x amount of time, others it’s x price for x amount of books for x amount of time. This is because it mimics the wear and tear of physical books. Plus a library may want more copies right after a release date of popular authors or overly hyped books but once the hype dies down they’ll won’t repurchase that amount of books.

Now. Macmillan is one of the biggest publishing houses in the US. Along with their normal imprint they also have smaller imprints including Tor, Flatiron and St. Martin’s Press. Meaning their reach is a lot farther than you think it is.

The effect:

Macmillan is doing this in order for more people to buy the books themselves instead of borrowing from the library because it would get them more money. However, many that’s restrictive for those who don’t have the money to buy ebooks for themselves. It also punishes disabled people who can’t or don’t want to physically go to the library for a physical copy.

With this embargo the hold lists will be a lot longer. They’re already at over six months for a new release and that list is going to get even longer. Now, we know this is due to libraries only having buying a set number of copies due to budgets. This embargo will make those lists even longer because they can’t buy multiple copies until after eight weeks. After eight weeks book are off the radar of purchasing agents. It’s not your library’s fault the lists are long.

What can you do?

  • Speak out about it- social media, blogs, tell your friends.
  • Sign the petition
  • Share ALA’s resources everywhere
  • Submit an op-ed to your local paper
  • Write to Macmillan’s CEO
  • Don’t blame authors or libraries

Do you read ebooks? Will this effect you?

10 thoughts on “Macmillan’s ebook embargo

  1. Oh my gosh. What a crazy thing! I can see why the book company would do that but still. I think you hit a great point when you said, “It also punishes disabled people who can’t or don’t want to physically go to the library for a physical copy.”


  2. It’s great your library is keeping patrons informed! Mine still hasn’t said anything about the embargo, even after I asked if they would or intended to. But patrons have a right to know what is happening and how it affects their access.


  3. Wow this is the first time I’m hearing about this. How terrible! They are basically punishing people for using their libraries. I use my library a lot but I also spend a lot of money on books and it makes me want to spend my money on a company that truly cares about their customers.


  4. Right? Like thankfully I personally have the ability to go but there are so many people who can’t! I used to go to the library to get people’s holds sometimes because they couldn’t so when Overdrive came out it saved so much time. It’s so much more convenient and less stressful to get it on Kindle or phones. That’s the biggest problem with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s so strange! I feel like it’s going to effect everyone so they should probably say something so people don’t get frustrated at them? I’m so blessed with such an amazing library and I make sure to donate when I can so they can keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Right? Like I’m so torn because I like their books, I have the financial ability to spend money on books, and I want to read them right away but I want to spend my money on a better company. I don’t understand why anyone thought this was a good idea. It makes me want to spend less money through them, not more.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is ridiculous! This year I’ve been trying to spend on books because I have so many unread books on my shelf. So I have been listening to audiobooks and reading ebooks a lot more. I understand they want to make more money but they really should think of the people who can’t buy ebooks and can’t go to the library. I do hope they reconsider this choice.


  8. I really hope they do. I feel like unless they see it doesn’t work they won’t change it but they did a trial with Tor and it was “successful” I’m trying to use my library more because I went overboard on book buying the last couple years.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Where did they do this trial with Tor where it ended up being succesful? They saying more people went to buy the books? Yeah I feel the library is so important. It’s very needed and like you said nobody wants to wait like 6 months to read a book.


  10. It was just mentioned in one of the articles. That’s what they’re saying but I’m wondering if the demographic of who is reading contributes to it. Maybe they just hit the demographic that can afford to/ is able to buy it.


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