Hennepin County Library Voices Opposition to New eBook Restrictions
Step into any library and you’ll see thousands of books sitting on shelves, waiting for people to enjoy what lies within their pages. But physical books only make up a part of a library’s collection.
“We are finding more of our patrons wanting to read on personal devices, and eBooks make that available to them,” said Johannah Genett, Hennepin County Library’s Division Manager.
These days, nearly everyone has access to electronic devices like smartphones or tablets. To accommodate the culture shift, Hennepin County Libraries now have more than 400,000 eBooks and e-Audio books available in its collection.
“We are seeing the biggest growth in our circulation with our e-materials, both eBooks and e-audio books,” Genett said. “They are also very important to certain patrons with disabilities.”
Macmillan Decision will impact how Hennepin County Buys and Lends eBooks
Whenever a new book comes out, libraries purchase it in a variety of formats. However on Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers will put a restriction on brand new eBook titles.
“Which means that instead of us being able to buy ten or 20 copies of an eBook when it first comes out, that publisher is limiting us to one copy for eight weeks. And that can be very confusing for our patrons,” Genett said.
Macmillan says that since eBooks are so readily available from libraries, book sales and authors’ royalties have fallen. So by limiting the immediate availability of new eBooks, authors can still earn a decent wage.
If you talk to officials from Hennepin County Libraries, they’ll argue that the eight-week embargo is an arbitrary time frame that only limits access and increases wait times.
“That isn’t good for our community. That doesn’t encourage reading,” Genett said. “What we’ve found is that when our patrons check out authors’ books from the libraries, they are much more likely to purchase a copy of that book to give to a friend or a family member or to purchase other titles.”
Library officials have made public pleas urging Macmillan to reverse their policy. The hope is that Macmillan listens, and that other publishers won’t follow suit.
“I hope that they hear from readers that having access to eBooks in libraries is important, and that they make different business decisions,” Genett added.
The American Library Association has started an online petition to urge Macmillan to reverse their eBook policy.
Meanwhile, the Author’s Guild has come out with a statement in support of the Macmillan decision.