Announcement, Smut & Activism, Smut Reporting

Macmillan, eBooks, and the library embargo

Update: March 17, 2020

Today Macmillan walked back its library embargo, announcing that it would return to the pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. Further, in view of the current coronavirus pandemic, it plans to reduce ebook prices for libraries so they are able to purchase more ebooks while we’re practicing social distancing. 

In view of this change, we will resume requesting galley copies of or accepting review requests for releases from Macmillan imprints. Primarily these are St. Martin’s Press and Entangled Publishing. Should the situation change again, we will reevaluate our position at that time.

The full announcement is here.

We are big library users. We love libraries. (Erin started dating her husband at the library.) 

When we first started reading smut, libraries were our go-to place to feed our burgeoning addiction. At the public library that we used, the romance section was large and full of bodice rippers (it was the 90s!). 

Some library patrons  are lucky enough to still have robust romance sections full of paperbacks, but we’ve noticed that romance novels in particular are increasingly available to borrow as eBooks, while their physical shelf space is shrinking. 

Libraries fuel our habit, and we consume much more media because let’s be honest, there’s no way we could afford to purchase the number of books we read each year. 

That brings us to the point of our post: eBooks, accessibility, and publishing house Macmillan. 

The waiting list for Jen DeLuca’s new release

What’s going on? 

Macmillan has decided to implement a sales embargo for eBooks to libraries; this sales embargo went into effect today. When a new book is published, libraries are now limited to purchasing one electronic copy of a book (licensed in perpetuity) for eight weeks, after which additional licenses may be purchased on a renewable 2-year, metered model. That means the library gets the additional eBook license for two years or a number of checkouts (in this case 52), whichever comes first.

What’s the big deal?

Unlike the other big four publishers who have also recently modified their terms for library eBook licenses, Macmillan has framed libraries as cannibalizing book sales from authors. They present the embargo as a means to help boost author sales. 

What it’s actually doing is removing an almost guaranteed purchaser from its rolls (the library is, after all, a purchaser) and at the same time preventing access to a larger public. 

Access is important because it allows individuals to acquire content who, for any of a number of reasons, may not otherwise have access. This is especially impactful to disabled, poor, and rural individuals and communities.

If you’d like to understand why this situation is such a big deal, read this amazing post by Wendy the Superlibrarian, published on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books earlier this week.

At least a 6 month wait for Julia Quinn

What are we doing?

We are concerned about not only Macmillan but also about a possible rollover effect if other publishers elect to make the same sales decision as Macmillan. We believe Macmillan needs to hear from its product consumers about what the impact of this decision is. 

We have decided not to request any new galley copies of books from Macmillan imprints. We do not plan to purchase any new books from Macmillan imprints. On Sunday we will post our last scheduled review of an advance reader copy from St. Martin’s Press. You may see us reviewing other Macmillan publications because we may still acquire them from libraries or second hand. 

Since we’re romance readers, what this means is that you’ll see us promoting fewer books by St. Martin’s Press and Entangled Publishing. You can find a list of all Macmillan imprints here.

What can you do?

You can sign the petition started by the American Library Association calling on Macmillan to cancel the embargo. also has a number of other good recommendations for ways to make your voice heard if you would like to speak out or get involved.

You can also follow #ebooksforall on Twitter for ongoing updates. 


What’s going on:

Macmillan is going to embargo all ebooks to libraries by 2 months

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books (detailed analysis)

After Tor Experiment, Macmillan Expands Embargo on Library E-books

What libraries and librarians are saying:

ALA denounces new Macmillan library lending model, urges library customers to voice objections (press release)

NYLA Calls on Macmillan to Reverse Library eBook Embargo (succinct w/ resources)

Libraries Alarmed by Macmillan Publishing eBook Embargo

Libraries Must Draw the Line on E-books by Sari Feldman (former executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Cleveland, Ohio, and a former president of both the Public Library Association (2009–2010) and the American Library Association (2015–2016))

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