The Macmillan Boycott

Those of you who enjoy eBooks and audio books that are available through cloudLibrary with your library card, will be interested to know about the boycott of Macmillan Publishers eBooks (and its imprints) by Maine InfoNet, the Maine Library Association, and the American Library Association (ALA). The boycott is the result of the embargo Macmillan has placed on libraries for the eBooks that they purchase.

Right now, when libraries purchase an eBook, the price they pay is much higher than what an individual would pay for the same eBook. For example, The Codebreakers by David Kahn and published by Simon & Schuster was quoted for $59.99 as an eBook for a consumer purchase which means lifetime access. By contrast, the price to libraries for the very same eBook is $239.99 and this is for one copy and lasts for only two years. If the library wanted access for four years, it would pay $479.98. If the library wanted access for 20 years, it would pay $2,399.90 for one copy that is lent to one person at a time. ¹

Macmillan not only wants to change the price structure but also wants to limit the number of eBook copies of new releases to one per library entity for the first 8 weeks after its release date. That would make your wait for a new release in eBook format only longer. In their #eBooksForAll FAQ section, ALA points out that “Borrowers already wait a long time for eBooks they place on hold, even when hold lists number in the hundreds. Some will just go to another title on their long reading list. Some can’t afford to purchase hardcovers or eBooks, so they won’t buy them in any scenario.”

And this is not just about entertainment. Elementary schools, colleges and universities rely on digital access to books, eBooks, audio books, text books, journals and more. The price tag for the digital access will only grow if the big publishers are left unchecked. This embargo placed by Macmillan Publishers may be the testing of the waters, and it will pave the way for all publishers to limit, price gouge, and deny access unless you have the money to pay their price.

There is no escaping the fact that we live in a digital age, and libraries are not expecting something for nothing. According to the ALA report before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, “Libraries are prepared to pay a fair price for fair services; in fact, over the past ten years, libraries have spent over $40 billion acquiring content. But abuse of the market position by dominant actors in digital markets is impeding essential library activities that are necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to information, both today and for posterity.”

Libraries have, and always will, battle to ensure access for all, regardless of format. The ALA has launched an #eBooksForAll campaign and there are ways you can lend your support:

  • sign the petition and ask your friends to sign (
  • post about #eBooksForAll on social media (
  • write a letter to the editor or an op-ed and submit it to your local news outlet

If you have any questions or concerns, please ask during your next visit to Topsham Public Library or call us at 725-1727.

¹According to ALA’s report before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary October 15, 2019.