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Okanagan libraries fighting for access to eBooks

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A petition against restricted access to a major publisher's new eBooks is gaining attention from libraries across North America.

Okanagan Regional Library is joining the fight against Macmillan Publishing's policy that limits the ORL and other libraries to one copy of an eBook for the first two months after a book's publication.

"This means much longer wait times for eBooks from authors you love, such as Nora Roberts, Jeffrey Archer, Liane Moriarty, and many more," said ORL CEO Don Nettleton in a statement.

"This change will create a barrier for customers who cannot afford to purchase digital content, and for those who rely on their public library for accessing digital information. This particularly impacts people with visual or learning disabilities who may use or rely on eBooks for the ease of changing the font size. Macmillan’s new model for eBook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission of ensuring access for all."

Nettleton said that, under the publisher's new policy effective Nov. 1, the ORL will only receive one copy of a new eBook to service 400,000 people.

In an October letter to librarians, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said the change aims to protect the value of an author's new book due to the rising popularity of eBook loans from a library.

"We believe the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed eBooks decreases the perceived economic value of a book. I know that you pay us for these eBooks, but to the reader, they are free," said Sargent.

"I realize the lack of availability in the first eight weeks will frustrate some e-book patrons, and that will make your jobs more difficult. Your patrons would be happy if they could get any book they wanted instantly and seamlessly, but that would be severely debilitating for authors, publishers, and retailers. We are trying to find a middle ground."

As of Sunday, Nov. 3, a petition put forward by the American Library Association to address Macmillan Publishing's policy change has 181,670 signatures.

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