UPDATE: Read The Washington Post's coverage of Digital Book World's action against Macmillan here.
As part of the sold-out Digital Book World 2019 back in September, our friends at the American Library Association announced the eBooksForAll campaign, in response to Macmillan's then-proposed embargo on ebooks at libraries.
That embargo has since gone into effect, as of November 1, limiting libraries of any size or type to purchasing a maximum of one (1) copy of any new book, for eight weeks after said new book is released.
In the fireside chat I had with ALA's outgoing executive director Mary Ghikas at DBW 2019, I mentioned to her my own history with libraries. My grandmother loved the library, and helped instill in me my own love of libraries. I would accompany her to the library, where she would choose three or four books at a time to take home. Some would get read, some wouldn't, and she'd bring them all back weeks later to get another batch.
Can you guess which member of my family bought the most books, year after year?
How about which member of my family had the most books bought for her, as gifts, year after year after year?
Alongside her borrowing books at the library for free, the truth was that my library-loving grandmother was actually a top customer for the publishing industry, generating significantly more annual revenue in book sales than the rest of my well-read family combined.
And yet, here's Macmillan CEO John Sargent, who waltzes in to a recent American Library Association conference and dares to hold court with angry and frustrated librarians while failing to prepare in any way for the session. No slides, no data, no nothing.
As disrespectful as that is by itself, he continues to make the claim that by giving libraries unfettered access to purchase Macmillan titles in digital format, the company would lose money. Amidst a barrage of b-school five-dollar words, he speaks of an imbalance in library lending that is damaging publisher profitability.
It's disingenuous, and it's false. It merits zero further discussion.
Somehow making this stance even dumber is that even if revenue gains were realized from the act of embargoing books from public libraries, that value is instantly outweighed by the PR fallout from all the negative publicity Macmillan has received by taking this action.
Digital Book World has been restored as an essential industry conference - the gathering of the wide world of publishing. Macmillan's hostility, as confused and bizarre as it may be, toward libraries - our critical public institutions of learning, opportunity, and community - demands our response.
It is our absolute privilege to ban all Macmillan employees from attending or speaking at Digital Book World until the company's library embargo is lifted and they fully comply with the requests of the American Library Association. This ban goes into effect immediately for all of Macmillan's many imprints and subsidiaries, as well as for employees of the parent company, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.
This ban may last for a few days, or it might last fifty years, but we yearn for a time when we hear of major publishers doing nothing with libraries other than graciously partnering with them and showing heartfelt gratitude for cultivating their revenue stream known as lifelong readers.
At this same time, we are also setting aside twenty-five (25) full conference passes to Digital Book World 2020 for librarians, and we will ask for the American Library Association's help to identify librarians and library staff that can take advantage of this opportunity and to distribute these passes. It is important to us that even as Digital Book World becomes an increasingly precious and scarce learning and networking opportunity, that communities like librarians continue to have access.