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Macmillan Expands Library eBook Lending, Promises to Keep Prices High

It’s6140017255_815f69e70e[1] been just over 6 months since Macmillan entered the library ebook market with a small pilot program, and today they are expanding that pilot to include all backlist titles from Macmillan imprints.

That’s 11 thousand titles in total, but it unfortunately does not include Macmillan’s frontlist titles.

There’s also no clear explanation as to what qualifies as a backlist title, and that’s just the beginning of the bad news. I have confirmation that Macmillan will continue to license the ebooks under the same contract terms that they used in the pilot. The ebooks will cost $25 each and will expire after 2 years.

Even though consumers will be able to buy 3 or 4 year old titles for $6 to $10, Macmillan is going to charge libraries $25 a copy. They are effectively charging the new hardback price for content that will expire in 2 years.


I suppose this should come as no surprise;  Macmillan is just the latest major publisher to offer a hostile contract to libraries. Hachette, for example, sells ebook at extortionate prices while HarperCollins sell ebooks under a license which expires in one year. Simon & Schuster is currently only supporting a pilot program for the 3 library systems in NYC (also with an expiring license), and then there’s Random Penguin Solutions.

The combined Random House/Penguin conglomerate is still sorting out their contracts and continue to license ebooks to libraries under 2 different models. Random House titles are sold to libraries at a steep markup while Penguin titles are licensed under an expiring contract. If this dual contract setup seems strange or inefficient, let me remind you that we are talking about the publishing industry here.

image by thejester100

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Jussi Keinonen October 17, 2013 um 1:50 pm

That’s the freedom of pricing. For the library user, the book will be free. The society offering the book to it’s members takes the 25 dollar hit voluntarily. If the book gets read once a month during two years, it will add up to about a dollar a read.

That’s No man’s land in the current pricing strategies, eh? 🙂

Beth October 17, 2013 um 2:22 pm

My bet is that when Random Penguin sorts themselves out, they’ll end up with a steep markup on titles that expire after a year. I really wish I was joking.

Nate Hoffelder October 17, 2013 um 11:05 pm

I made that same crack when the merger was announced last year. I thought I was being snide, not prophetic, but now that Macmillan is overcharging for expiring content …

Macmillan to Distribute Audiobooks to Libraries via Hoopla | Ink, Bits, & Pixels May 7, 2015 um 1:01 pm

[…] Macmillan is joining Hoopla's service as part of a pilot test which will bring acclaimed authors such as Jeffrey Archer, Orson Scott Card, Atul Gawande, Louise Penny, and Lisa Scottoline to library patrons. On a related note, Macmillan started dabbling in the library ebook market with a small pilot in January 2013 before expanding distribution later that year. […]

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