Macmillan Leaves Simon & Schuster Standing Alone

With each passing month, more ebooks are becoming available to libraries for purchase. Patrons are asking for them; librarians, in turn, are trying to get them from publishers; and publishers, sometimes reluctantly, are selling their ebooks to libraries.
Yesterday, Macmillan made good on its declaration from Sept. of last year to test selling ebooks to libraries. It will make 1,200 back-list titles available from its Minotaur mystery and crime imprint. They can be lent out 52 times or over two years – whichever comes first – before the library has to buy them again. They will cost libraries $25 each, about two-to-three times what they cost for consumers to buy them.
With this move, Macmillan joins other large publishers Hachette and Penguin, which both have ebook lending pilots. Two of the other big publishers, HarperCollins and Random House, already make their books available to libraries. Which leaves Simon & Schuster standing alone among the largest publishers.
To date, Simon & Schuster has exactly two books that it makes available to libraries for purchase. A spokesperson told Digital Book World in Dec., however, that the company is in talks with library representatives about its policy.
Most other publishers sell their ebooks to libraries, of course, but that generally goes unreported. For now, Macmillan will stand alone in praise for taking a few tentative steps toward what everyone else already does; and Simon & Schuster will stand more truly alone in its library ebook policy.
Related: American Library Association on DBW

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2 thoughts on “Macmillan Leaves Simon & Schuster Standing Alone

  1. Dick Hartzell

    “Most other publishers sell their ebooks to libraries, of course, but that generally goes unreported.”

    Jeremy: I see you using the word “sell” here. You threw me, because the arrangement you describe with Macmillan sounds more like renting or leasing to me. Do all the other publishers involved in providing books to libraries take this “you can loan it 52 times or for 2 years, whichever comes first” approach? Sounds rather fussy to me — guess libraries put up with it because they have no alternative.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Good catch, Dick. The truth is, the word “sell” is used (misused?) this way in regards to ebooks often. When you “buy” an ebook from Amazon, you are actually buying a license to the file, which you do not own. Some publishers and ebook sellers sell you the actual book file, but that is not the way most ebooks are sold.

      In the case of some library/publisher relationships, there is an actual sale of a digital file happening (with limiting terms). In the case of Macmillan or HarperCollins, where the terms involve the file having a limited-term use, I think it’s appropriate to use the word “sell” here knowing that when we’re talking ebooks, “sell” is a squishy term.



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