On November 1, Portlanders' access to e-books from the public library will be severely restricted.
That's when Macmillan, one of the country's five biggest book publishers, will begin imposing an eight-week embargo on libraries' access to new e-books. In a public letter published Monday, Vailey Oehlke, director of Multnomah County libraries, wrote that Multnomah County Library is "the sixth top-circulating library in the country for digital content."
"Under these new restrictions, the wait for many Macmillan e-book titles will skyrocket to four months or more," Oehlke wrote. "What's more, libraries are forced to license this content and cannot own it. A licensing model increases costs and limits how many times patrons can check out a book before the library must re-license."
Oehlke said Macmillan's new restrictions will likely prevent the library from buying a broad range of titles and will increase wait times significantly for popular novels. She also chastised Amazon for signing exclusive deals with authors and refusing to license titles to libraries.
"Macmillan has said that libraries undercut publishers' profits by allowing readers free access to materials that they would otherwise purchase," she wrote. "That reductivist argument is disingenuous and capricious, and it shuts out those with the fewest resources. Not everyone can afford to use Amazon as an alternative to their public library."
The library asks Portlanders to sign a petition demanding that Macmillan make e-books available to the public institution without delay.
A spokesperson for Macmillan did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.