Ebook distribution to libraries took another leap forward on October 17 when Baker & Taylor, OverDrive, 3M, and RBDigital (Recorded Books) told their customers that Macmillan’s entire ebook backlist, 11,000 titles from lead imprints St. Martin’s, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Macmillan Children’s, and Tor, would now be available to their patrons. “Newly available titles from Macmillan will be added [to Title Source and the Axis 360 reading platform] as they become eligible for sale on a monthly basis,” said B&T in a statement.
The news came barely ten months into a two-year pilot program inaugurated in January by Macmillan CEO John Sargent, which included 1,200 ebook backlist titles from the publisher’s Minotaur mysteries and crime fiction line. At that time Andrew Martin, Minotaur publisher, stated, “The libraries have always been great supporters of the Minotaur publishing program and a critical mainstay of the category.” Terms for the full backlist remain the same as before: one title/one user, $25 per title, and a 52-loan or two-year cap, whichever comes first.
While Macmillan executives would not comment further on the expansion and instead let the ebook distributors speak for them, their actions indicate the pilot has been successful thus far.
Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, said he believed publishers better understand the value libraries bring in exposing the long tail and in discoverability. “We’ve had an extraordinary few months,” he said, with Hachette opening its entire catalog to libraries, Penguin returning to OverDrive [and expanding its Axis 360 pilot into full distribution], and now Macmillan putting its backlist out. Simon & Schuster also launched a pilot program last spring with B&T and 3M.
In meetings with U.S. publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair last month, Potash said he shared public library data on the number of patron impressions in various categories and genres—and publishers’ rankings. “Publishers wanted to know how to increase their [library] exposure and ranking,” he told LJ, confirming the sea change that appeared to be taking place in publisher/library relations. He credited ALA, along with distributors, with helping to effect the change.
George Coe, president of B&T’s library and education division, noted that B&T has been working with Macmillan for the past three years to persuade them to participate in the library market. “We had tested their content and agreed to several terms and finally had positive results to roll out their content to libraries,” he told LJ.
Library selectors reacted enthusiastically to the expansion. “Any time more titles are added to the list of books we can provide to our patrons, it’s a pretty big deal,” said Robin Bradford, Indianapolis Public Library collection development librarian. “Backlist titles, especially those in series, are pretty important to our readers. And an entirely new group of readers will be able to discover them through our ebook collection.”
Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos, CA, town librarian, said that he favored “diverse service models,” including Macmillan’s. He pointed out that like HarperCollins, Macmillan titles are “significantly less expensive [than] the high-priced one-book one-user model, where we pay almost 100 bucks a book.”
“This means we can get more books in front of readers,” he said. “We can then evaluate how well they circ and not be locked into perpetual ownership for books that are not popular. These new models give us more flexibility and thus more options—more options in terms of building the library’s collection of ebooks and more options in moving between ebook providers.”
Bankhead’s remarks dovetailed with the reaction from ALA president Barbara Stripling, who praised the expansion and said Macmillan is on “an upward trajectory with librarians,” but cautioned that there is still a long way to go with publishers on ebooks. “[W]hile we’ve seen good progress this year, much more remains to be done,” said Stripling. “Many issues remain on the table, such as multiple licensing options per publisher, full access to newly published titles, conversion of all remaining pilots to nationwide distribution, library pricing that is closer to consumer levels, preservation, privacy, and accommodations for people with disabilities.”