As the date new ebook licensing restrictions are set to take effect looms, the Edmonton Public Library is joining forces with groups across North America to protest the changes.
Effective Nov. 1, all public libraries, regardless of size, will only be able to buy one copy of any new Macmillan ebook release and will have to wait eight weeks before they can buy additional copies.
“There’s been a lot of conversation, a lot of outrage, from public libraries across North America and beyond, but we haven’t heard anything back from the publisher, from Macmillan Publishers, yet,” said Sharon Day, EPL director of branch services and collections.
“We’re looking to continue to push forward and do even more and see if we can get any conversations to happen.”
Since first raising concerns with the new ebook licensing rules and how they would impact public libraries, EPL has now joined other campaigns to bring attention to the issue. There is a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ebooksforall and an online petition launched by the American Library Association. As of Monday, it had about 90,000 signatures.
“That’s a really easy thing to do to show support,” Day said. “If you’re looking to do even more than that, sharing on social media, talking to your friends, getting more people to sign the petition, writing letters to the publisher directly is always a great way to get involved.”
Day said that while there’s still been no progress with Macmillan directly, she’s never seen so much co-ordinated engagement.
“I can’t think of any other times recently when libraries have really joined forces across North America and on many different groups. We’ve got the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, the Urban Libraries Council in the U.S., plus the American Libraries Association, which is a massive organization.”
If the licensing restrictions take effect on Nov. 1, Day says it will mean longer wait times for ebooks by authors like Nora Roberts, Jeffrey Archer and Liane Moriarty. But, she also says the restrictions raise questions about equal access, democracy and censorship.
“There’s a couple of interesting comments about how this is about essentially a lack of information or a lack of the ability to access information is a form of censorship, in a way. We’ve got Banned Book Week coming up and thinking about this from that angle, that we’re limiting access to people who don’t have necessarily the ability or the funding to purchase the titles on their own and we’re limiting access to information.”
Global News has reached out to Macmillan for comment but had not heard back by publication time.
Day explained that Macmillan’s ebook restriction would mean just one title for eight full weeks for an entire library system.
“In some cases, that could mean a consortium. That could be one ebook, for example, an entire state,” she said.
“So, there are some states in the United States who have one ebook copy for an entire state of public library users.
“There are some consortiums, even in the province of Alberta, that can be many different small cities that make up one consortium and that’s one title for an entire group of municipalities. For Edmonton, it’s one ebook title for the entire city of Edmonton for a full eight weeks. Then, after that, you can buy additional copies, so the wait times are going to be very extreme.”
Day is encouraging anyone who supports public libraries, literacy and even access to information to get involved, spread awareness and push Macmillan to change its plan.
“This directly impacts you,” she said. “We, as a public library — and because of our values — are standing up for our customers, standing up for our community members and that we’re asking for help in doing.
“We would like Macmillan Publishing to know how important this is to their customers as well — they’re our customers but they’re also Macmillan’s customers — and it’s important for all of us to get involved and talk about how important this is.”
WATCH BELOW: (Aug. 30) New restrictions that publishers are putting on ebooks could cause problems for Edmonton’s libraries.