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Fulton County Library System urges readers to protest publishers’ cutbacks in digital books

The Fulton County Library System is advising patrons of an embargo on ebooks and advises they can write a protest letter to publishers. Credit:

By David Pendered

A move by publishers to protect profits from the sale of e-books and e-audiobooks has prompted the Fulton County Library System to urge patrons to protest publishers’ decisions to embargo or otherwise restrict new release e-books and e-audiobooks to public libraries.

The Fulton County Library System is alerting patrons of publishers’ embargoes on ebooks audiobooks, and advises patrons they can write a protest letter to publishers. Credit: afpls.org

In its Oct. 23 e-newsletter to patrons, the Fulton County library system observes:

  • “You can take action by emailing Macmillan and Blackstone Audio in support of public libraries and against the embargo.”

The issue involves income derived from the sale e-books and e-audiobooks to libraries. E-book readership has skyrocketed, and publishers contend that unrestricted sales to public libraries erodes the revenue stream for all involved in publishing new materials.

The creative class was the target of the first volley by MacMillan Publishing. A July 25 letter addressed to authors, illustrators and agents stated the house was taking steps to protect their income.

The letter reads, in part:

  • “Historically we have been able to balance the great importance of libraries with the value of your work. The current e-lending system does not do that. We believe our new terms are a step toward reestablishing that balance.”

Librarians agree that digital forms are skyrocketing in popularity. They contend the houses should not restrict access to information based on its format.

In its Sept. 11 protest letter, the American Library Assoc. included this comment from Kent Oliver, the director of the Nashville [Tenn.] Public Library, as he addressed the Nashville library system:

  • “Checkouts for e-books increased by 22 percent last year alone, while e-audiobook checkouts increased by 33 percent. Additionally, we purchase enough books that patrons do not wait more than 3.5 months, at the most, to read the most in-demand titles. An embargo that limits us to a single copy could very well result in our patrons waiting a year or longer to check out their favorite books.”

‘Because ebooks let you fit a world of literature in your pocket,’ is the observation in the latest enewsletter from the Fulton County Library System. Credit: Fulton County Library System enewsletter

After MacMillan’s announcement became public, other publishing houses joined in restricting or embargoing materials. The list includes Blackstone Audiobooks, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Shuster, according to a Sept. 25 report by the Berks County (Penna.) Library System.

The Berks County system and its partner responded with a boycott of its own, according to its report. The decision affects e-audiobooks, but not e-books:

  • “Beginning Sept. 30 and lasting for at least six months, public libraries part of the Reading Library District will boycott eAudiobooks from the following publishers: Macmillan, Blackstone Audio, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster.”

The Fulton County Library System does not report any system-wide action taken against any publishing house. The system’s Oct. 23 e-newsletter to patrons does provide a notice of the situation and note that patrons may write a letter to MacMillan and Blackstone Audio, the latter of which produces audiobooks and has implemented restrictions.

The statement from the Fulton library system reads in full:

  • “You may have heard about recent e-book and e-audiobook embargoes placed on public libraries by publishers like Macmillan and Blackstone Audio. The embargoes prohibit public libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new release titles, or in some cases any new release titles, by those publishers until a certain amount of time post publication.
  • “Wait times in Overdriveand Hooplafor certain titles to appear will be longer and wait times for holds will be longer. Public libraries across the country are appealing to these publishers to rethink the embargoes. You can read more here. You can take action by emailing Macmillan and Blackstone Audio in support of public libraries and against the embargo.”



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Bob R November 5, 2019 10:41 am

    Blackstone has no restriction on “libraries” , including when/how they can circulate Blackstone titles.Report


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