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Multnomah County unhappy that publisher will only sell libraries one copy of an ebook, impose waiting period for more.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County's library system, which includes downtown's Central Library, said it would no longer buy ebooks from Macmillan Publishers because of the company's restrictions on some sales to libraries.Multnomah County's library system said Tuesday it would no longer buy ebooks from Macmillan Publishers Ltd. because of that company's new restrictions on library sales.

Vailey Oehlke, director of the county library system, said in a Nov. 5 press release that the publishing company's restrictions would limit the number of ebooks libraries could lend. This summer, Macmillan changed its ebook policy to allow only one copy of a new book to be sold to libraries. It also imposed an eight-week delay on purchases of additional copies of any new ebook.

John Sargent, Macmillan Publishers USA chief executive officer, said in an October letter to libraries that the company policy was designed to deal with the rapid increase in ebook lending that has cut into sales. "We are not trying to hurt libraries; we are trying to balance the needs of the system in a new and complex world," Sargent wrote.

The company's new policy took effect Nov. 1. Oehlke said it was "designed to do one thing: make Macmillan more money by creating barriers for people to use library resources." Libraries across the country have protested the decision. The American Library Association also blasted the policy.

"Like others who lead public library systems across the United States, I am deeply worried that other publishers will follow suit, undermining the ability of libraries to provide resources in the ways people want to use them," Oehlke said. "We want Macmillan to end this policy."

Multnomah County's library system has the Central Library and 18 neighborhood branches across the region. It has about 2 million books and other material in its collections. In 2019, the library system purchased nearly $120,000 in ebooks from Macmillan.

Oehlke said plans to stop buying ebooks from Macmillan was "not a decision we take lightly." The libraries will still buy Macmillan print and audiobook titles, she said.


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