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Macmillan Reverts Library eBook Licensing Terms in Response to COVID-19

The US trade publisher Macmillan  just announced a pricing change in response to the current epidemic.

Macmillan sent librarians an email today, informing them that Macmillan’s contract terms will revert to the terms in place in October 2019 ( library ebook prices up to 4 times retail, and a 52-loan limit per copy).

Here’s the text from the email:

Dear Librarians, Authors, Illustrators, and Agents,

There are times in life when differences should be put aside.

Effective oNF riday (or whenever thereafter our wholesalers can effect the change), Macmillan will return to the library ebook pricing model that was in effect on 31st October 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some ebook prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries' collections in these difficult times.

Stay safe.

Given that the ALA has described these terms as "already unfavorable to libraries", I cannot be grateful to Macmillan. If they really wanted to help, they’d drop library ebook prices to match their retail ebook prices.

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MKS March 17, 2020 um 2:26 pm

*cough* I think this is less about being willing to help and more about concern that customers will not be buying physical books in walk-in bookstores nor visiting libraries for physical books. There’s going to be a boom in e-book borrowing from libraries and Macmillion was going to miss out.

Steve H. March 18, 2020 um 7:43 am


Disgusting Dude March 17, 2020 um 7:45 pm

Also, Amazon will be focusing their warehouses on Covid essentials so even that despised channel will be squeezed. Sacrificing ebook sales to protect dead tree pulp is probably going to have to be rethought.

Allen F March 18, 2020 um 1:33 am

Libraries should continue boycotting Macmillan for the time being, Macmillan and the other publishers are going to be feeling the heat in the coming months – if not for years to come. Ebooks are the way to go, and that agency game they pulled on pricing means 'they' have to drop the prices or give even more readers over to the indie/self-publishers.

Disgusting Dude March 18, 2020 um 8:16 am

The BPHs will wrap themselves in civic duty and announce a "temporary" drop to a baseline of $ 9.99.

Life will be tough without front tables to buy. Control of access to bookstore shelves isn’t worth much if no bookstores are open. And Amazon won’t be restocking non-esentials.

MKS March 18, 2020 um 12:29 pm

Coronavirus Winter may show us how much Tradpub’s insistence on physical books and in-person forms of marketing (bookfairs, signings, etc.) contributes to sales.

Or doesn’t.

Publishers are also looking at losing eyeballs to video games during this time. Are any publishing houses creating online book clubs? Have online video channels of writer interviews or activities? Fostering fan pages and communities for specific writers or worlds? Running Coronavirus Writing Contests? Partnering with school systems with literature, creative writing, or library skills classes for kids home from school? Partnering with video game producers of content based on books? Offering discounts to the quarantined seniors? Stepping up audiobook production?

Disgusting Dude March 18, 2020 um 7:20 pm

All great ideas, MKS, but video games aren’t the only (or biggest) competitor for customer eyeballs.
Video streaming services are exploding just in time for the pandemic shutdown.
All offer massive archives of movies and video series, including a lot of compelling originals, at monthly lower prices than tradpub books. All projections are for masive boosts (40% or so) in viewership from existing subscribers and new ones.

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