As big six publishers and librarians prepare for more meetings this week in New York, Macmillan officials have confirmed to PW that the publisher has developed a pilot project that would enable e-book lending for libraries—a potentially major development. However, details of the pilot remain undisclosed. “We have been working hard to develop an e-book lending model that works for all parties, as we value the libraries and the role they play in the reading community,” reads a statement provided to PW. “We are currently finalizing the details of our pilot program and will be announcing it when we are ready, and not in reaction to a demand.”
The reference to a demand, meanwhile, comes in response to an open letter written by ALA president Maureen Sullivan, which ramps up the public pressure on publishers to provide access to e-books. In the letter, which PW reported on in Monday’s issue, Sullivan stresses that libraries can no longer “stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide,” or “wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record.” She argues that readers should “rightfully expect the same access to e-books as they have to printed books,” and demanded publishers explore more creative solutions.
“We have met and talked sincerely with many of these publishers,” Sullivan writes. “We have sought common ground by exploring new business models and library lending practices. But these conversations only matter if they are followed by action.”
Depending on the specifics, the Macmillan pilot could be a shot of much-needed good news for the library community. If Macmillan follows through and implements the program, it would leave Simon &Schuster as the only big six publisher out of the e-book game entirely.
It would also halt one negative trend: since talks between publishers and libraries began in late January, there has been no progress—and indeed, regression on the e-book issue. Penguin pulled out of the market entirely, although in June, it started a limited pilot project with vendor 3M and the New York Public Library; in March, Random House nearly tripled its e-book prices to libraries; two weeks ago, Hachette confirmed it would more than double prices on nearly 3,500 backlist e-book titles. HarperCollins continues to implement a 26-lend limit on e-books.
The news comes as librarians and publishers will meet this week in New York, including an AAP-sponsored discussion in which Sullivan will participate.