Macmillan’s controversial two-month embargo on new e-book titles in libraries remains the main focus of librarians' displeasure this week (see below), but another Big Five publisher is also drawing the attention of librarians. The changes to Simon & Schuster’s previously announced digital terms of service kicked in on August 1—and librarians in the U.S. and Canada report they are discouraged by the publisher’s price increases.
Price increases were expected—in its July announcement, S&S was clear that most “new release” e-books would be priced between $38.99 and $52.99. But with the new pricing now in place, and in some cases more than double the previous prices, are librarians experiencing a case of sticker shock?
In a pair of posts on the Readers First blog this week, St. Mary’s County librarian Michael Blackwell reiterates that not all of S&S’s recent terms of sale changes are unwelcome—the publisher's switch from mostly one-year licenses to two-year licenses has been generally well received. The addition of a pay-per-read option for a publisher-selected group of S&S titles shows that the major publishers are capable of offering multiple models, the kind of flexibility that librarians have long been asking for. And librarians especially appreciate that S&S has committed to keeping digital content available to libraries upon publication—no embargoes.
Still, the price increases for many titles in the OverDrive catalog, Blackwell told PW this week, are causing concern among librarians. For example, he notes:
Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House was previously priced at $20.99 for a one-year license and now lists for $51.99 for a two-year license.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership: In Turbulent Times has gone from $20.99 for a one-year license, to $59.99 for 24 months.
Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, previously $19.99 for one year, now is listed at $59.99 for two years.
And, Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu’s bestselling The Red Scrolls of Magic, book one in the Eldest Curses trilogy, has gone from $18.99 for a one year license, to $51.99 for two years.
Blackwell also points out that some S&S titles which were already available as two-year licenses have also roughly doubled in price without additional time being added to the licenses—a straight up price increase. For example, Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within was previously $28.49 for a two-year license; it now lists for $55.99 for the same two-year license. Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret was $23.99 for a two-year license; it now lists for $47.99 for the same term.
Some of the increases are even more notable in Canada. For example, Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Capture: was previously $32 for a one-year license and is now $119.99 for a two-year license, reports Toronto Public Library’s Susan Caron, who shared with PW a list of similar examples.
Digital audio list prices have largely remained the same—however, titles previously were licensed on a perpetual access model. Now, they are now metered, and must be re-licensed after two years. Of the Big Five publishers, only Hachette and S&S currently meter digital audio licenses to libraries.
S&S’s new prices and terms, it should be noted, are fairly standard among four of the Big Five publishers, and, in fact are often a bit less expensive (of the Big Five, only HarperCollins offers libraries digital access via a bundle of 26 lends, rather than a time-based license).
In S&S's specific case, librarians say they generally prefer to license access for more than a year. But they also note that checkouts for most titles tend to slow in year two, meaning that libraries are now being made to pay more up front in exchange for a second year of access which, their data shows, will often not be used. The net result: inefficiency for library managers, and less choice and longer wait times for readers, as more library dollars necessarily flow up to meet bestseller demand, leaving less money to take chances on new and mid-list authors.
In a press release today, ALA announced that on September 11 it will unveil "a public action campaign opposing arbitrary restrictions to library e-book lending," in response to "Macmillan Publishers’ new policy" which embargoes new release e-books in libraries. "National library leaders including Kent Oliver, library director, Nashville Public Library; Mary Ghikas, executive director, American Library Association; and Ramiro Salazar, president, Public Library Association, will share library and reader impacts of the embargo and efforts to increase digital access for all." The announcement coincides with the 2019 Digital Book World conference in Nashville. The event will take place at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee. 2019, at 11 a.m. We will post more details as they become available.
Meanwhile, in her most recent editorial, Library Journal & School Library Journal editorial director Rebecca Miller joins a rising chorus of librarians urging Macmillan to abandon its planned two-month embargo on new release library e-books. “This type of embargo can’t be accepted as a new low bar,” Miller writes. “Access to readers shouldn’t be viewed as a zero sum game. It’s in everyone’s interest to foster more readers.”
American Libraries highlights a selection of ALA award-winning librarians.
Citylabs explores "The Decline and Evolution of the School Librarian."
And, in the local Lancaster Online (PA), a nice Q&A with Hempfield School District library department supervisor on the role of school libraries.
Via Gary Price at InfoDocket, the global “digital divide” (the gap between underconnected and highly digitalized countries) will worsen if not addressed, according to the first-ever Digital Economy Report, which calls for “concerted global efforts to spread the wealth potential to the many people who currently reap little benefit from it."
From the Scholarly Kitchen, as the open access movement accelerates, Roger Schonfeld raises a provocative question: "Many libraries are using a negotiating playbook that would, if successful, prop up the big deal in this moment of disruption. Is this the best approach for the academy?"
From The Washington Post, "New York is leading a multistate investigation of Facebook for possible antitrust violations, Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday, kicking off a bipartisan wave of independent state inquiries targeting the social media giant as well as Google’s parent company, Alphabet." Buckle up.
The Week in Libraries is a weekly opinion and news column. News, tips, submissions, questions or comments are welcome, and can be submitted via email.