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Publisher lifts limit on eBooks for libraries in light of novel coronavirus pandemic

Mayors, U.S. Congress wade into eBook issue between publisher and libraries
WATCH ABOVE: (Nov. 14): Public libraries across North America have been pushing back against Macmillan Publisher's eBook restriction, saying it threatens equal access to information. Now, the U. S. House of Representatives is asking for more information. Emily Mertz explains.

Macmillan Publishers lifted the embargo it previously put in place limiting the number of titles for eBooks public libraries could buy due to the current health crisis.

READ MORE: 79 mayors, U.S. Congress wade into publisher’s limit on eBooks for libraries

The major multi-national publisher’s eBook restriction came into effect Nov. 1. It meant that, regardless of the public library system’s size, it was only allowed one eBook copy of a new title for eight weeks. After that, it could purchase additional copies.

Libraries across North America sounded the alarm, concerned the rule would cause huge wait lists and limit public access.

READ MORE: Publishers’ embargo on eBooks ‘could be crippling’ to Edmonton libraries

On March 17, Macmillan sent a letter to librarians, authors, illustrators and agents, saying it was returning to the eBook pricing model that was in place prior to the Nov. 1 changes.

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“In addition, we will be lowering some eBook prices on a short-term basis to help expand libraries’ collections in these difficult times,” the message reads.

“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” Macmillan also wrote.

EPL joins other public libraries in protesting ebook restrictions
EPL joins other public libraries in protesting ebook restrictions

Local libraries were happy with the change.

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“Quick and easy access to eContent during this time is incredibly important for our customers, and we were happy to see that Macmillan made the decision to support libraries by lifting their embargo,” said Sharon Day, Edmonton Public Library’s director of branch services and collections.

“This will make access to eContent easier for public libraries to purchase and shorter wait times on holds for our customers.”

Penguin Random House also added new temporary pricing options for digital content purchased by schools and public libraries.

“By offering more flexible terms of sale and use, PRH is making it easier for libraries to support our communities in a period of unprecedented need for at-home reading and learning materials,” said Alan Inouye with the American Library Association.

“Libraries need more flexibility to meet changing demands, particularly when some patrons are sheltering at home and some library buildings are temporarily closed to the public.”

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Macmillan Publishers – March 17 by Emily Mertz on Scribd