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A message from Alexandria Library’s Executive Director

Alexandria Library, in alliance with a majority of Virginia Public Libraries, has made the decision to temporarily cease buying new eBooks from Macmillan Publishers. Due to Macmillan’s decision to institute a library eBook embargo, Alexandria is now restricted to purchasing only one copy of a newly released eBook for the first eight weeks after publication. This limits the library’s ability to perform one of its core missions — providing equitable access to all. By controlling the number of newly released eBook copies that can be purchased, Macmillan is allowing only a certain segment of society to access digital content in a timely manner ― those who can pay for it.

Alexandria Library will continue to provide new copies of Macmillan print books, CD audiobooks, and e-audiobooks for checkout since they have no purchasing restrictions.

We encourage you to visit the American Library Association and Urban Library Council websites for more information on their efforts and to sign their petitions.




At Alexandria Library, 30% of our circulation is from digital materials.  65% of library card holders are e-borrowers. Between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 the number of eBooks checked out tripled!  Our community loves eBooks! 

Digital technologies are becoming increasingly inseparable from the ways that people learn, work and interact.  The library's unique ability to create equitable access for information and knowledge is more important than ever.  Needless to say, our city and community is strongest when all individuals have the same opportunity to further their personal, educational and professional goals. 

One of the great things about eBooks is that they can become large-print books with only a few clicks, and most eBook readers offer fonts and line spacing that make reading easier for people who have dyslexia or other visual challenges.

Because portable devices are light and easy to hold, eBooks are easier to use for some people who have physical disabilities.  eBooks allow access to individuals who can't make it to the library due to transportation issues or scheduling conflicts. 




When the Library buys an eBook we are actually purchasing a license.  Each publishing house has it's own price model.  Many publishing houses use the 2-year licensing model. 

The price libraries pay for an eBook is not the same as it would be for a consumer.  For example, the popular "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens is about $15 for a consumer to purchase. 

The library is charged $55 for 24 months of usage.  If the library still wishes to retain the title in eBook format, we will pay an additional $55 for two more years of use.



    • Why now?
      Discussions about the fairness of publishers' digital pricing and access for libraries have been ongoing for at least a decade. However, the challenges for libraries intensified rapidly in 2018/2019 as publishers implemented drastic changes to their digital content pricing. Below is a timeline of changes to e-content lending models for libraries:

      • July 2018 — Tor Books (also Tor/Forge or Thomas Doherty, a division of Macmillan Publishers) implements a four-month embargo on availability of new eBook title for libraries.
      • October 2018 — Penguin Random House ceases perpetual eBook licensing for libraries and implements a two-year metered model. 
      • July 2019 — Hachette Book Group ceases perpetual eBook and eAudiobook licensing for libraries and implements a two-year metered model.
      • July 2019 — Blackstone Audio imposes a 90-day embargo on new eAudiobook titles for libraries. 
      • August 2019 — Simon & Schuster ceases perpetual eAudiobook licensing for libraries and implements a two-year metered model. 
      • November 2019 (pending) — Macmillan Publishers will implement a two-month embargo on all new eBook titles for libraries.
    • All eBook titles published by Macmillan or by any of the publishers that Macmillan owns. These titles will still appear in our catalog in other formats, but will not be available in eBook format.

    • Macmillan eBooks already in our collection will remain. You can continue to place hold requests and check them out as usual. If you have a Macmillan eBook checked out right now, it will not be affected.

    • No. This decision only affects Macmillan eBooks. We will continue to purchase print versions of Macmillan titles.

    • Yes. We will not be purchasing any Macmillan eBooks. Library staff will process and consider purchase suggestions for all other Macmillan formats as usual.

    • Macmillan is one of the “Big Five” book publishers in the world, along with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. They publish a wide variety of fiction, nonfiction, and other genres from hundreds of different authors.

      Under the Macmillan Publishing Group is Farrar, Straus and Giroux, MCD, Picador, North Point Press, Hill and Wang, Henry Holt and Company, St. Martin's Press, and Tor/Forge. It also includes their Children's Publishing Group.  Authors under Macmillan Publishing include David McCullough, Nora Roberts and Colson Whitehead. 

    • We don’t have an end date right now. Should Macmillan cancel its embargo, we will immediately lift the suspension.

    • We believe everyone deserves equal access to books and information. In our view, Macmillan’s policy means that only those who can and will pay for access deserve it. That’s why we believe this is the next step we must take.

      Additionally, your chances of getting access to that single copy in the first two months are slim. We have hundreds of patrons who place holds on the most popular new eBooks. Everyone can hold or check out an eBook for up to 21 days, which is nearly a month. By the time you move to the top of the queue, odds are, it will have been several months already.

      We understand that this is frustrating. We know this decision won’t please everyone, but we firmly believe that this suspension is the best way we can support eBook readers and ensure that libraries have equal access to digital materials.