Big-six publisher Macmillan, which has kept its ebooks out of libraries until now, is launching a pilot lending program, the company announced Thursday.
The pilot is limited to 1,200 older titles from the Minotaur Books mystery and crime fiction imprint (part of Macmillan’s St. Martins division). Libraries will be able to lend out the ebooks for two years or 52 times, whichever comes first, before having to buy a new copy. According to Library Journal, each ebook will cost $25. The ebooks will be available through three different digital library distributors at launch: OverDrive, 3M Cloud Library and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360.
Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in a statement, “Among the many titles we publish, mystery and crime fiction makes up one of the largest categories and Minotaur Books is the primary source. And, as the library market has always been one of Minotaur’s largest customers, we think that this pilot will provide books especially desired by library patrons.” Alison Lazarus, president of Macmillan’s sales division, told Library Journal that the company “will make assessments along the way as to whether to expand the title selection and whether to continue the program as launched beyond the two-year term.”
Publishers have been reluctant to offer ebooks to libraries in part because they fear that it will cut into sales. Sargent said “ we do not expect [the pilot] will heavily impact our retail sales over time.”
With Macmillan’s new offering, all the big-six publishers except for Simon & Schuster are making ebooks available to libraries in at least a limited way. Penguin is testing its own pilot with libraries in New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland (after previously pulling all its ebooks and digital audiobooks from libraries). Random House makes all of its ebooks available to libraries but sharply increased the prices last year. HarperCollins allows ebooks to be checked out 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Hachette does not make ebooks published after April 2010 available to libraries, and increased the prices of those that are available last year.