New Orleans Public Library Joins Libraries Nationwide In Suspending E-Book Purchases From Major Publishing Company In Response To New Embargo Policy

NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Effective Nov. 1, the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL), along with Library systems nation-wide, will no longer purchase newly-released e-Books from Macmillan Publishers, one of five major publishers in the U.S.

This decision comes after months of discussion and advocacy to urge Macmillan to reconsider instituting a new library e-Book embargo, set to go into effect on November 1. Under Macmillan’s new lending model, public libraries of any size will only be allowed to purchase one copy of a newly released e-Book for the first eight weeks after publication.

As a large library system, NOPL maintains a “Holds to Copy” ratio of 3-to-1 to minimize wait times for popular titles. This means that for every three holds on a title, NOPL purchases one copy to minimize wait times. If NOPL is limited to one digital copy of each new title and must wait eight weeks before being able to purchase more, Library users could conceivably wait years for their e-Book.

This embargo will not only contribute to extensive waitlists for library users, but also creates accessibility and equity issues for those with disabilities and for those who cannot afford to purchase newly published e-Books.
“Macmillan’s new policy seems to support a mindset that only those who are able and willing to pay for literature and information deserve to have equitable and timely access,” states NOPL’s Interim Executive Director Jessica Styons. “This embargo directly contradicts many of NOPL’s core values including Access, Customer Service, and Intellectual Freedom.”

e-Books have become an increasingly popular NOPL product. In 2018, 337,770 e-Books and audiobooks were checked out, a 49.1% increase from the previous year.

To continue to ensure reasonable wait times for newly released electronic titles, NOPL will divert its e-Book funds to publishers who are willing to sell to libraries without a purchasing embargo. They will, however, continue to purchase Macmillan titles that are not embargoed, including print materials and older copies of best-selling e-Books.
The American Library Association (ALA) and Public Library Association (PLA) created to provide information on the subject and to encourage members of the public to urge Macmillan Publishers to reverse the proposed embargo on e-books sold to libraries.