COLUMBUS, Ohio — eBook lending has been around for 15 years, but the terms and conditions have often been unfriendly to libraries.
- One of the country's largest publishers has decided to take the unprecedented step of restricting sales of eBooks to libraries across the country
- Several large library systems have chosen to boycott the new policy, including the Columbus Metropolitan Library System
- Columbus Metro Library’s CEO believes this situation may eventually end up before Congress
The CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library Patrick Losinski says eBooks often cost a library between five to six times as much as consumers.
And after two years or 26 checkouts, a library must re-purchase the eBook.
“We've agreed to those policy changes because we're trying to make it work. Now Macmillan, one of the top five publishers that libraries use, has decided—we're not going to sell you a new book that comes out for the first eight weeks. You no longer have access to it. And I guess this is where we draw the line,” said Losinski.
Losinski says what's also concerning is how other publishers will respond to Macmillan's new policy.
“We are the best marketing partner that authors and publishers can ever hope to have. And so now to somehow take us out of that equation, we think ultimately is going to harm authors and harm publishers as well,” said Losinski.
And library officials say last year 67,000 Columbus Metro Library customers checked out nearly 2 million items from their digital collection.
And that number is expected to increase in 2019.
This year, the Library has purchased over a thousand different eBook titles from Macmillan, but now they're not purchasing any new copies.
“Our role here is advocating for that student who might need something for a report. It's advocating for a senior who might be in an assisted living location and is unable to visit the library, but they can download. Now we're saying—you can't have it, and it seems unfair to us,” said Losinski.
In a recent letter to libraries involved in the boycott, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said:
“I realize the lack of availability in the first eight weeks will frustrate some e-book patrons, and that will make your jobs more difficult. Your patrons would be happy if they could get any book they wanted instantly and seamlessly, but that would be severely debilitating for authors, publishers and retailers. We are trying to find a middle ground.”
Losinski says he hasn't been contacted directly by officials from Macmillan.
He hopes there will be open dialog in the future, and says this fight is far from over and may eventually play out in our nation’s capital.
“I think where this is going to end up is probably in Congress, we'll be looking at the copyright laws, and the first sale doctrine, which actually gives libraries the right to circulate material,” said Losinski.