Library Director Warns Publisher Policy Change Threatens New Digital Divide

Oct 28, 2019

New restrictions on library access to ebooks is threatening to create a new digital divide, according to the director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.  

More and more people are checking items out of the library with their phones or tablets. Libraries soon may not be able to meet the demand for certain e- books. Come November 1st the publisher Macmillan, one of the big five, plans to limit libraries to buying just one digital copy when a title comes out. It’s a conundrum for library directors like Aimee Fifarek, who heads up the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

"Do we buy the one copy we’re being allowed to buy and then have an enormous holds list? Or perhaps do we not buy it at all until we can buy the number of copies to satisfy demand?"  

That would be 8 weeks after the book is released. Fifarek is urging readers to sign a petition advocating ‘ebooks for all’ to try to get publishers to reconsider the new restrictions. She notes that libraries already pay much more than consumers for ebooks and are not able to purchase the books from Amazon, which refuses to sell any ebooks to libraries.   

“When we can’t even purchase at any price these materials which we already pay a lot more and don’t have permanent access to, it’s a problem and it’s really starting to create a new digital divide in information.”

The House judiciary committee has begun an investigation into competition in digital markets.

Besides Macmillan Publishers the other four that make up the Big 5 include Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. The American Library Association noted,  “The Big 5 publishers control over 80% of the trade book business in the United States.”  


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