Congressional Committee Investigating Library E-Book Concerns

YOUNGSTOWN (October 24, 2019/For Immediate Release) – The American Library Association (ALA) is providing information to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for the committee’s bipartisan investigation of competition in digital markets. This is due to the increasing inability of libraries to purchase digital materials from giants in the publishing industry.

Macmillan Publishers recently announced that beginning November 1, 2019, libraries will be able to purchase only one copy of each new e-book title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release. That means readers will be on long lists, waiting to read the newest titles. The e-book titles from Amazon Publishing are not available to libraries at any price. And other publishers may follow suit. The Big 5 publishers are Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, 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.”

Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County Executive Director Aimee Fifarek says, “I am pleased that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee has chosen to investigate the competitive practices of digital publishing industry leaders.  The mission of public libraries is to connect people with the information they need to succeed in life.  In turn, we have the responsibility to be good stewards of the public monies we are entrusted with to provide that service.  Practices like Amazon’s refusal to sell content to libraries and Macmillan’s decision to not allow libraries to purchase sufficient content meet those needs is a significant barrier to libraries’ ability to provide fair access at fair pricing.  The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County supports the American Library Association’s response to the Judiciary Committee’s inquiry.”

The ALA, issued a news release and report today. The ALA notes that their report “underscores practices by companies like Amazon and Macmillan Publishers that threaten Americans’ right to read what and how they choose and imperil other fundamental First Amendment freedoms.”

The ALA news release quotes Alan Inouye, ALA senior director of public policy and government relations: “When Amazon – the world’s fifth largest publisher of e-books – refuses to sell to libraries, or when a Big 5 publisher like Macmillan places an eight-week embargo on e-book sales to America’s libraries, we believe it is time to take legislative action.”

In a letter to Mary Ghikas, CEO of the American Library Association, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary states: “The House Judiciary Committee is investigating competition in digital markets. The focus of this bipartisan investigation is to examine (1) competition problems in digital markets; (2) whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct online; and (3) whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies, and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues.”

To learn more or for a link to the “e-books for all” petition, go to https://www.libraryvisit.org/ebooksforall/

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Link to news release on ALA website:

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/10/ala-denounces-amazon-macmillan-response-congressional-inquiry-competition