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Metro libraries join nationwide protest of policy limiting e-book access

Posted at 11:16 AM, Nov 06, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The directors of three large Kansas City area library systems released a statement Tuesday to announce that they'd joined in a nationwide protest of a publishing company’s policy to limit libraries’ access to e-books.

Starting this month, Macmillan Publishers limited libraries to acquiring one e-book copy in the first eight weeks of a new book’s release.

According to Kansas City Public Library, e-books and other digital materials have accounted for more than one-third of all rentals during the last two years.

Following the decision by Macmillan Publishers, Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III said the new policy could impact the people who need access the most.

“It really simply means that our circulation to our poorer customers will go down,” he said. “People who can’t afford books and who come to the library for that won’t be able to get books at the same time.”

After Macmillan's announcement, Kemper joined the directors of the Mid-Continent Public Library and Johnson County Library in protesting the decision.

Macmillan is concerned that library checkouts are cutting into digital sales.

“(The policy) may yield a handful of customers who’ll buy books in the absence of immediate access at the library," the directors' statement said. "But the publisher is sacrificing a much, much larger number of readers and potential customers who won’t be able to access its books in libraries, who also won’t be introduced and drawn to its lineup of authors and many other titles."

The directors also noted how libraries often have to pay a high cost for every e-book copy they acquire.

“All of the library world is upset about this,” Kemper said. “From a point of view of access, electronic books and resources are tremendous.”

According to the policy, libraries would be able to acquire additional copies of the e-books after the initial eight weeks of release.

The American Library Association has also joined in on the protest with a petition online gathering almost 200,000 digital signatures as of Wednesday evening.

Moving forward, Kemper hoped the two sides could reach a compromise.

“We need to work with publishers to make sure that publishers and authors and libraries are all a major factor in the world 50 years from now,” Kemper said. “Electronic books are here to stay and are going to be a big part of our universe. And they’re great benefits from them, too. We hope to continue to have access.”