KCLS ends eBook boycott with Macmillan Publishers

The System will resume purchasing new eBooks from Macmillan and its publishing imprints

Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 the King County Library System (KCLS) will resume purchasing newly released eBooks from Macmillan Publishers. KCLS’ Macmillan boycott was enacted on November 1, 2019, the same day the publisher instituted their eBook embargo on libraries.

KCLS’ decision to end the boycott comes after Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced his intent to abandon the eBook embargo. In a memo to librarians, authors, illustrators and agents, Sargent cited the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as a factor in his decision. “There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” Sargent explained.  

"As the first library system in the country to challenge Macmillan’s unfair embargo on eBooks, we are pleased to hear they are returning to their previous lending model," states KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “This good news comes at a vital time, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when our communities need access to digital information now more than ever. To all the patrons, stakeholders and community members who stood with us, thank you for helping us fight for digital equity and access to information.”

KCLS will invest an additional $350,000 in its digital collections this month to increase online access during this challenging time when physical library buildings and materials are not available to the public. Residents in the KCLS service area can sign up for a digital eCard to access KCLS’ online services and resources.

Under Macmillan’s embargo, public libraries of any size were only allowed to purchase one copy of a new eBook for the first eight weeks after publication. In response, the American Library Association denounced Macmillan’s decision and created an online petition to fight the embargo at eBooksForAll.org, and the library community united in protest, which drew the attention of federal and state lawmakers.