King County Library System announced Wednesday that it is ending its boycott of e-books from MacMillan Publishers. The boycott, which began last November, was due to the publisher’s then-new policy that said libraries could buy only one copy of new e-books (previously, unlimited purchases were allowed) upon publication, and that they had to wait eight weeks before buying additional metered copies. The American Library Association denounced the decision last fall and created an online petition at ebooksforall.org.
KCLS’s decision came after Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced Tuesday, in a memo to librarians, authors, illustrators and agents, that the publisher will return to its original library e-book pricing model, allowing libraries to purchase an unlimited number of metered copies with no waiting period (just as is allowed for print books, audio books and other formats).
“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” began the memo, which also noted that Macmillan will be “lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries’ collections in these difficult times.”
In a statement, KCLS executive director Lisa Rosenblum said, “As the first library system in the country to challenge Macmillan’s unfair embargo on eBooks, we are pleased to hear they are returning to their previous lending model … This good news comes at a vital time, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when our communities need access to digital information now more than ever.”
KCLS also announced that it will “invest an additional $350,000 on its digital collections this month to increase online access during this challenging time when physical library buildings and materials are not available to the public.”
Seattle Public Library, which did not join the boycott but warned patrons of potential long waits for Macmillan e-books, did not have an immediate comment.