Monash Study Shows that the "Big 5" Have Destroyed the OC/OU Perpetual Model

Our friends in Australia, the Monash Elending Project, whose pioneering work RF has often cited before, have updated a 2017 study of 100,000 titles with 2019 data. Of particular interest are the 48,794 titles that were published and licensed by the Big 5 publishers. In 2017, 33.8% (16,500) were available in the once-standard One Copy/One User Perpetual License. Two years later, only .4% (199) titles still are.

Please retweet their link, posted above!

It’s not that the OC/OU Perpetual is the only deal libraries want. AS RF has said over and over, a variety of licenses are essential for libraries to be able to use their money wisely and expand our offerings in an increasingly digital world. Taking OC/OU off the table completely, however, jeopardizes long-term access and preservation and commits libraries to perpetual re-ordering.

Publishers, if any of you are listening, here’s a modest proposal from one person. No, it will not be endorsed by every library, or perhaps any, and the suggested price point may be condemned as too expensive by some libraries, but you are obviously concerned about money.

At point-of-sale for first run titles—and no embargoes on libraries, please—you offer us one OC/OU perpetual license at, say, $60. Like Macmillan would have it. You also offer us unlimited licenses of 50 circs at $75, perhaps even with a simultaneous use option. The prices can be adjusted on backlists. You get a known amount per use on the metered licenses. We get some ability to conserve titles and know what we are paying per use. Let’s see how it works.

Can we at least start talking?

New Children's Digital Library Launches Across All Georgia Public Libraries

Wendy Cornelisen, Georgia Assistant State Librarian, has shared the following news. ReadersFirst tips the hat to Georgia libraries for this great investment in literacy for young minds and looks forward to hearing about how the initiative makes an impact.

“Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) is proud to launch eRead Kids, a new digital library available through all 407 public libraries in the state. The collection of almost 15,000 electronic and audio books is for children from pre-k through fourth grade. 

Kids will build confidence and reading skills - and have fun - through eRead Kids,” said State Librarian Julie Walker. “eRead Kids will empower libraries to support young readers by offering a format convenient for traveling and entertaining kids, while growing their reading skills." 

 The collection is a mix of fiction and non-fiction ebook and audio book titles that can be downloaded onto computers, tablets and smartphones. 

 All Georgia families now can freely check out electronic books for their devices to encourage early reading, which is so important to educational success.

 GPLS has worked with children’s librarians across the state to select titles and identify the most advantageous offerings and pricing. eRead Kids is made possible by funding proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp and approved by the Georgia General Assembly. 

“At GPLS, we strive to create programs that can be shared by all of our libraries, urban and rural, large and small. We can create economies of scale by leveraging our buying power for materials and services for statewide use,” said Walker.

To access eRead Kids, you simply need your Georgia public library card and an internet connection. Visit or your local library to learn more.”

Blackstone Boycott: Week 5 Update

Two interesting developments have occurred this past week in the WCLS-sponsored boycott of Blackstone Audio.

First, ILS Administrator Carmi Parker spoke with a reporter from the New York Times for an upcoming “article about the increasing eBook restrictions from publishers.” Obviously, we need to wait to see what the article says before commenting. If it is simply informative and balanced, however, it will be good news for libraries. The publishers have their side, of course, but we also have compelling arguments for the public good. The more those arguments are noted, the better, and the NYT is a good place to see them. Thanks, Carmi!

Second, a Blackstone sales representative has visited 13 of the area libraries to talk. He promised to bring four points back to Blackstone:

  • If the embargo is successful and the title becomes popular, will Blackstone extend the 90 day embargo period. Is it open ended based on popularity?

  • If the embargo is successful will Blackstone add 1st tier authors and titles?

  • We would like a statement from the CEO/CFO about this 90 day hold with reassurances that this embargo was not intended to limit access to patrons but rather to increase popularity of lesser known titles in the vast audio-book marketplace.

  • They would like a list of the titles that will be embargoed.

RF will continue to provide news of the boycott and encourages libraries to follow it or even to join in. One way, as Carmi has noted, is to cancel your Blackstone standing order list. It will be more work to select titles individually, but you could send a message and, if you so choose, blacklist boycotted titles.

Ignoring for the moment the implausible argument that embargoing a title in libraries is surely not a way to get it noticed—why not give us a list of such titles and see what we might license and promote?—some credit is due to Blackstone. They are at least talking with libraries, which is more than we can say for Macmillan, which releases dubious figures without any backing data and stiff-arms all attempts at conversation. Two cheers for you, Blackstone, with thanks for taking. Three cheers when you give us multiple licensing options and work with us to end the embargoes while ensuring a fair deal for lesser known authors. What will it take? Let’s talk!

"Panorama Picks" Details Picks for Local Booksellers

The Panorama Project is releasing regional lists intending “to help libraries and booksellers work together more effectively to better serve active readers in their communities, while helping publishers and authors identify regional marketing opportunities for titles (and authors) that have moved beyond their initial marketing windows.”

The “lists are generated using aggregated, anonymized U.S. public library ebook demand data provided by OverDrive and the following process:

  • 3 categories—Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, YA Fiction & Nonfiction

  • 9 regions—8 aligned with ABA regional associations, plus Hawaii

  • 25 titles published in the last 12-24 months that are available in print to libraries and booksellers—trade and self-published

  • Filtered to limit known bestsellers, book club selections, other heavily promoted titles, etc.”

Any work in which libraries might benefit booksellers, and so authors, is worthy of note. Let us hope for more cooperation for the benefit of readers.

Anyone Up For Joining a Boycott?

RF is a little late to the party on this, one, but coming late doesn’t preclude action.

Libraries in the Washington Digital Library Consortium have undertaken a boycott of Blackstone audio in response to the publishers embargoing the sales to libraries for 90 days.

As the linked post indicates, Blackstone has taken notice and is inquiring of its “strategic partner” [Amazon?] if sales to library vendors might go on without the embargo.

They have provided a helpful toolkit and are getting positive comments from patrons.

Anyone want to join?

Thanks to the libraries in Washington, and Arizona, Idaho, and Texas that have joined them, for leading the way!

Steve Potash of OverDrive Comments on Macmillan

Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, has commented thoughtfully on Macmillan’s recent e-book decision.

Various members of the ReadersFirst Working Group have sometimes disagreed respectfully with some of OverDrive’s decisions. In this case, Mr. Potash, we thank you for your well-supported and thoughtful response to Macmillan's recent announcement on library e-books. Mr. Sargent of Macmillan has, as you point out, rightfully ignored one of the prime reasons why his company survives: the support of libraries helping readers discover Macmillan authors. We hope for unified action on the part of libraries to bring Macmillan's false claims to the attention of the public, using your examples as one of the many reasons why Sargent's decision is bad for libraries, bad for readers, and bad ultimately for writers.

Mr. Potash’s post is well-worth reading and sharing!

More Responses to the Macmillan Decision

Macmillan’s changes on e-books last week have one good outcome: uniting the library community to push back.

Canadian Urban Library Council has released this statement:

The statement notes that “For print books, which are protected by copyright law from library embargoes, libraries have a long history of serving as a place of discovery where readers can find new content and authors. Digital content should be no different.”

 ALA now has a page, with actions members of the library community and library users can take. Please add your voices:

 Urban Library Council has sent out this message:

We are writing this email during a break in the ULC Executive Board meeting being held in Calgary. We have just concluded a lengthy discussion on the e-book and audio book mess. 

Immediate actions include members of ULC and  the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) working together to:

 - identify the most critical issues that must be addressed and prioritizing these

 - develop strategies for moving forward as a united, powerful group of North America’s public libraries

 - engage all of our members and invite all other organizations and libraries to join a campaign that addresses the access and equity issues that endanger our democracy.

We will provide an update on initial steps by the end of next week and look forward to your input and guidance.

 Regards, Vickery Bowles

Chair, ULC Executive Board of Directors

 Susan Benton, President/CEO, ULC

ReadersFirst celebrates this announcement of joint action and hopes that we can make an appeal to perhaps our most powerful advocates, library readers.

Publishers Weekly Reports on the Macmillan Changes

Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly has posted a wide-ranging story on the e-book changes Macmillan announced today [disclosure: members of the RF Working Group are quoted].

This article clarifies that the only good news in Macmillan’s announcement—the possibility of getting a perpetual license, if only one—is limited: “A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed to PW that the single perpetual access copy will be available only for new release titles in the first eight weeks after publication—the option to buy a single perpetual access copy expires after that eight week window, and the offer is not available for backlist titles.”

Too bad about all those titles that might fail to make a splash but later become in demand or recognized as significant. Our ability to curate them, praised by Mr. Sargent as an advantage of the changes, is non-existent and undermines Sargent’s claim.

ALA Senior Director for Public Policy & Government Relations Alan Inouye is quoted as saying the following: "Worse than expected," he told PW. "Embargoes violate the principle of equitable access to information that is at the core of libraries," he added, pointing out that Macmillan's policy is curiously out of step with the rest of the industry. "Within the past year, three of the other Big Five publishers revised their library e-book business models, and none of them concluded that libraries were a threat to their profitability," Inouye observed. "Indeed, these other publishers believe that libraries are benefit to their businesses. Macmillan stands alone with its embargo."

Other librarians also weigh in: “And both [Director of White Plains Library Brian} Kenney and [director, Collections & Membership Services, Toronto Public Library Susan] Caron say Macmillan clearly did not listen to librarian input, because the new terms are not useful. "If we need more than one copy of a title, we’ll just wait. Our users will be upset if we don’t buy more to reduce holds, as we normally do. And if we can wait eight weeks, we may decide not to buy the title at all."

Since that wait is precisely what Macmillan wants, however, would it be a better idea to license the one and tell our patrons to complain to Macmillan when they want more?

FY 2019 can go down as the year that the Big 5 screwed over libraries, and, more importantly, library readers. We thank Harper Collins for resisting the parade and continuing to offer its e-books on a circulation based (and not time bound) license. HC, add the option for a perpetual license, and you become the company that cares.

The ALA Responds to the Macmillan E-book Changes

The American Library Association has responded to the Macmillan’s e-book license changes.

“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,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “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.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

ALA calls on library customers of Macmillan Publishers to tell CEO John Sargent they object to the publishing company’s new policy.”

ALA calls on library customers of Macmillan Publishers to tell CEO John Sargent they object to the publishing company’s new policy.”

Macmillan Publishers
Attn: Mr. John Sargent, CEO
120 Broadway Street
New York, NY 10271
Phone: 646-307-5151
Twitter: @MacmillanUSA

ALA asks that these communications also be sent to ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office at

ReadersFirst supports the ALA’s position and encourages libraries and citizens to communicate their displeasure to Macmillan.

Macmillan Announces Its New Library E-Books Terms

John Sargent of Macmillan has announced the publisher’s new terms on library e-books.

They include the following:

  • “We will make one copy of your [Macmillan authors] ebook available to each library system in perpetuity upon publication. On that single copy we will cut the price in half to $30 (currently first copies are $60 and need renewal after two years or 52 lends).”

  • “Additional copies of that title will not be available for library purchase until 8 weeks after publication.”

  • All other terms remain in place. It is important to note that the 8-week window only applies to ebooks; the library can order as many physical books as they like on publication.”

How very generous to let us buy all the print books we want, since you can’t stop us anyway due to print being covered by copyright and not license.

There is one positive development. Making copies available in two licensing terms (1 copy on perpetual use plus others on a two year/52 circulations metered model) shows that flexibility is possible. ReadersFirst has long advocated for this possibility but has sometimes been told it is technically impossible—a claim we dismiss because we have seen some smaller publishers offer multiple licensing. Having one copy available for perpetual use is a gain over having everything offered only on metered licenses.

As part of their change, Macmillan might have adopted a 50 circulation only model and set prices at what they thought fair. $75 might not have been out-of-line, equaling $1.50 per read. Time-bound licenses make many e-books a gamble for libraries, except in the case of relatively few best sellers. Under such a model, libraries, publisher, and authors know what revenue will be per use. If libraries doesn’t get a lot of circulation on a title, we can at least have time to promote it and hope it will be used in time. Perhaps they could offer three models: 1 copy/1 user perpetual, 25 circulations with no time limit and simultaneous use, and 50 circulations at one user/one copy, no time limit, all priced fairly. Don’t worry, publishers—the options wouldn’t be too complicated for librarians to figure out.

Of course, the small amount of good news in Macmillan’s announcement is overshadowed by their decision to embargo the sales of library digital content for 8 weeks. ReadersFirst is not surprised by the decision to embargo sales. After the Tor experiment, we saw it coming. Macmillan is a business. For all their claims to be supporting authors, they are clearly most concerned about their profits. But we are dismayed, and curious: how is it even legal to embargo sales to libraries? ReadersFirst calls for government investigation of this practice. It disadvantages library users, restricts the flow of valuable information, and undermines an informed citizenry. Some of Macmillan’s claims are preposterous and reflect a woeful lack of understanding. There is no friction in e-lending? Mr. Sargent has clearly never tried to enable a group of librarians, many of them deeply convinced that print is better, to learn digital use well enough to help our patrons, much less heard our patrons’ struggles to get library digital content or the expressions of surprise by many patrons that we have e-books at all. I only wish the process were as easy and seamless as he makes it out to be and that as many patrons know about library digital content as he presumes. Libraries are fortunate to be protected by the right of first sale for printed titles. If we were not, why wouldn’t Macmillan embargo sales of print to libraries, hoping to squeeze every dollar from the consumer market before graciously allowing readers “to lean heavily toward free”?

It is hard to know quite how to respond, other than to ask for government action and perhaps take legal action, without disadvantaging library readers. We could stop buying Macmillan titles altogether and let them see what that does to their sales, but such an action would force readers, many of whom might not have much disposable income, to buy on their own as well as take away content from our libraries. What we clearly need is unified action. We need to organize, take our case to our readers, encouraging them to write for government action and to boycott purchase of Macmillan e-books until such time as libraries also have access to these titles. Macmillan’s actions harm library readers. Ultimately, they harm the very authors Macmillan protests they are helping. Libraries are vital for promoting authors and their works, helping discovery of content that we would argue, yes, promotes sales beyond libraries. It is time for us not just to take a stand, but to ask our millions of readers to take a stand with us.