King County Library System boycotts Macmillan eBooks

Publisher’s policy limits 50 libraries to one checkout. The KCLS boycott began Nov. 1.

The King County Library System (KCLS) is no longer purchasing newly-released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers. The boycott began Nov. 1.

Macmillan, one of five major publishers in the United States, recently announced a new lending model that restricts public libraries to only one copy of newly released eBooks for the first eight weeks of publication.

For KCLS, the announcement was especially troubling. KCLS has 50 libraries in its system and serves more than 1 million residents. With the new lending model, that means only one digital copy can be shared between the 50 libraries.

The decision came after months of discussion and advocacy to urge Macmillan to reconsider instituting a new library eBook embargo.

KCLS executive director Lisa Rosenblum previously stated that if KCLS had been limited to only one digital copy of high-demand titles like “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, and then had to wait eight weeks before being able to purchase, the impact would be “dramatic.” She said patrons could wait years rather than months for their eBook.

In a press release, Lisa Rosenblum said digital equity and access to information is at stake. Rosenblum said KCLS’s central mission is to provide free and equal access to information.

According to Rakuten OverDrive, KCLS patrons downloaded nearly 5 million eBooks and audiobooks last year. KCLS has been the top digital-circulation library in the United States for the last five years and third worldwide, so the new embargo hits King County patrons hard.

Many KCLS patrons had reacted positively to KCLS’s decision to boycott Macmillan.

Comments on Facebook said, “Thank you for standing firm! Love my KCLS!” and “We got your back.”

One commenter added that she supported KCLS’s position as she is disabled and visiting the library frequently is difficult or impossible.

“EBooks have been life changing. They provide accessibility to the disabled, the shut in, and children too young to go alone” the commenter wrote.

Since the boycott, KCLS spokesperson Sarah Thomas said several libraries have joined in the boycott as well.

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