#eBooks For All

The Rochester Hills Public Library has ongoing concerns over eBook and audiobook lending models set by the Big Five publishers (HBG, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). Recently, Macmillan Publishers announced a new lending embargo that will limit libraries’ ability to serve their communities in an increasingly digital world. Currently, Macmillan is the only major publisher to limit eBook and audiobook lending for U.S. libraries. Under its new licensing model, which began on Nov. 1, 2019, a library can only purchase one perpetual copy upon release of a new title in eBook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries. After this embargo period, libraries can only buy additional licenses that will expire after two years or twenty-six checkouts (whichever occurs first).

Libraries lend e-content to readers on a one-copy-per-user basis, just like print books. However, unlike print books, libraries pay much more than individuals for eBooks. For example, an eBook copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments is available to individuals for about $15, but libraries have to pay $55. Further, most eBook licenses available for libraries from major publishers like Macmillan expire after a limited period of time or number of checkouts.

Millions of people use digital content as their preferred or only access to books, music, and movies. Digital content is portable, accessible to people with print disabilities, available anywhere 24/7, and brokered by libraries to provide diverse options to our diverse communities. Libraries not only pay for books, but they also market them. Lost marketing means lost publicity and sales for publishers and authors.

The Rochester Hills Public Library joins the American Library Association in denouncing this measure and calls on Macmillan Publishers to cancel the embargo and restore full access to its complete eBook and audiobook catalog upon release to the public.

Furthermore, RHPL affirms that:

    • All published works must be available for libraries to purchase and lend to library users.
    • Access to and use of eBooks must equitably balance the rights and privileges of readers, authors, and publishers.
    • Digital content must be accessible to all people, regardless of physical or reading disability.
    • Library patrons must be able to access digital content on the device of their choosing.
    • Reading records must remain private in the digital age.

It is important to recognize the impact on libraries like RHPL, which serves 105,000 people in our community. Last year, we had 186,105 downloads and we exceed that number by at least 10% per year. A single copy of a new title in eBook format for a period of two months is not sufficient nor is it acceptable. In some instances, this embargo will force readers to wait a year or more to borrow an eBook.  

More than 160,000 readers have already signed the #eBooksForAll campaign petition urging Macmillan to reverse its policy. Visit ebooksforall.org to ensure access to information and content for all here in the greater Rochester area.

Libraries bring together authors, publishers, teachers, and readers for the purpose of boosting knowledge, creativity, literacy, ideas, and imagination. We need more people reading, not barriers that limit access. 

How Can I Help?

    • Checking out eBooks and other materials from the library. Visit anyone of our online eBook and audio book catalogs to borrow materials today.
    • Sign the #eBooksForAll petition at ebooksforall.org.
    • Email Macmillan directory at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
    • Use #ebooksForAll to spread the word on social media.

Statement on Equitable Public Access to E-Books