The Multnomah County Library today announced that it will no longer purchase e-books from Macmillan publishers after the company severely restricted public institutions' access to digital titles.
The library asked Portlanders in September to sign a protest petition after Macmillan, one of the nation's five biggest book publishers, announced it would be imposing an eight-week embargo on libraries' access to new titles. The Portland Tribune previously reported on today's announcement.
That policy went into effect Nov. 1, and in a statement, Vailey Oehlke, the Multnomah County Library's director, said "it's time to say 'no more.'"
"Like others who lead public library systems across the United States, I am deeply worried that other publishers will follow suit," Oehlke said, "undermining the ability of libraries to provide resources in the ways people want to use them. We want Macmillan to end this policy."
Almost 16,000 Oregonians signed the library's "eBooks For All" petition, Oehkle said, and County Chair Deborah Kafoury issued a statement calling for equitable access to e-books.
In a letter to libraries, Macmillan wrote that its policy change was due to a decreased value in books as e-titles become easier to rent for free.
"We believe the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed e-books decreases the perceived economic value of a book," the letter read. " Your patrons would be happy if they could get any book they wanted instantly and seamlessly, but that would be severely debilitating for authors, publishers, and retailers. We are trying to find a middle ground."
In response, Oehkle was blunt. She said Macmillan's new restriction is "designed to do one thing: make Macmillan more money by creating barriers for people to use library resources."
She said the decision to cut ties with the publisher was not easy.
"Our decision also means that some library patrons won't be able to access popular authors in their preferred format and I regret that fact," Oehlke said. "The alternative is to be the proverbial frog in a pot of water that keeps getting warmer."
The library will keep the e-book titles it has already purchased from Macmillan and will continue to buy Macmillan titles in audiobook and print formats.