EBook and EAudiobook Licensing Changes Are Causes for Concern

The summer of 2019 has brought dramatic changes in eBook and eAudiobook licensing to libraries from many publishers.  Among the most prominent is Macmillan Publishers’ July 25th announcement that beginning November 1, 2019, a library may only purchase one copy of a new title upon release in eBook format, after which an eight-week embargo will be imposed on additional copies sold to libraries.1  Blackstone Audio is also placing a moratorium on libraries, prohibiting them from purchasing new content within the first 90 days of the retail date.2

Rather than imposing embargos, publishers Penguin Random House,3 Hachette Book Group,4 and Simon & Schuster5 have announced they are doing away with library-owned perpetual licenses and are adopting two-year licenses.  In many cases the publishers have lowered the initial prices of these timed titles which may help some libraries, but others have expressed concern over long-term costs to libraries by requiring continual purchasing of popular older titles.3

Macmillan’s representatives have pointed to reduced retail eBook sales in connection with library use as the primary motivation for their changes.6  Steve Potash, founder and CEO of OverDrive, has rebutted such claims, pointing out many timed licenses that libraries purchase never reach their maximum checkouts in the time allotted to the license, resulting in higher costs per circulation than Macmillan reported.7

ALA President Wanda Brown has expressed great concern over the timed license changes and the embargos.  “Eliminating perpetual access increases challenges to the long-term preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage. . . Furthermore, a price point of as much as $79.99 for two-year access to one copy of an audio book is excessive and reduces public access.”5  Also from President Brown, “Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all. . . Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.  When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library – not the publisher – that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.”1

While the Utah Library Association agrees that the rights of authors, publishers, and libraries should be balanced, we echo the concerns over the potential consequences of these various changes, particularly in the cases of the large libraries of our state as they strive to serve large populations.


1 American Library Association. “ALA denounces new Macmillan library lending model, urges library customers to voice objections”, July 25, 2019. www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/07/ala-denounces-new-macmillan-library-lending-model-urges-library-customers (Accessed August 29, 2019)

Document ID: 7ee1b4cf-aba7-476e-8ef6-f4d3146e4797

2 Blackwell, Michael. Readers First. “Hachette, Blackstone change library digital content models/availability”, June 17, 2019. www.readersfirst.org/news/2019/6/17/hachette-blackstone-change-library-digital-content-modelsavailability (Accessed August 29, 2019)

3 Enis, Matt. Library Journal. “Librarians react to new Penguin Random House ebook terms”, Oct. 12, 2018. www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=181012PRHebookterms (Accessed August 29, 2019)

4 American Library Association. “ALA ‘concerned’ over Hachette Book Group ebook and audio book lending model changes”, June 17, 2019. www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/06/ala-concerned-over-hachette-book-group-ebook-and-audio-book-lending-model (Accessed August 29, 2019)

Document ID: 9684779e-4c06-44fb-ba09-6d5ea3324305

5 American Library Association. “ALA uneasy about Simon & Schuster digital lending model changes”, July 2, 2019. www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/07/ala-uneasy-about-simon-schuster-digital-lending-model-changes (Accessed August 29, 2019)

Document ID: 84e2ae19-9d06-4ca4-962a-199cf00110d3

6 Enis, Matt. Library Journal. “Publishers change ebook and audiobook models; libraries look for answers”, July 17, 2019. www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=publishers-change-ebook-and-audiobook-models-libraries-look-for-answers (Accessed August 29, 2019)

7 Potash, Steve. Thoughts from a digital advocate: The official blog of Steve Potash. “Macmillan publishes a work of fiction”, Aug. 1, 2019. overdrivesteve.com/macmillan-publishes-a-work-of-fiction/ (Accessed August 29, 2019)