April 23, 2014

Macmillan CEO John Sargent Says eBook Lending Program For Libraries Coming in Early 2013

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In a holiday letter to authors, illustrators and agents, Macmillan CEO John Sargent says that a pilot ebook program for libraries (the programs existence was confirmed in October) will launch in “early 2013.”

We also learn that the program will be for a “limited part” of the Macmillan list of books.

Want specifics?

Sorry, not this time. We’re going to wait to and learn what “early 2013″ and “limited part” mean along with all other details.

Here’s the full text of what Sargent has to say about the program in his letter:

In early 2013 we will launch library lending of e-books. As you probably know, we have not sold e-books to libraries to date, though we have been working for three years to find a model that works for the libraries, but that didn’t undermine our retail partners and didn’t jeopardize our fundamental business model. We have found a model we believe works for a limited part of our list, so we will now move forward.

What else does the Macmillan CEO have to share in his holiday letter?

Here are a few highlights.

On the Penguin/Random House Merger

Many of you have asked what the Penguin/Random merger means for us, and what the chances are of a Harper/Simon merger. I think the Random/Penguin merger is based on financial engineering, and as such is good for the financial statements of the two companies. I think others have the same sort of opportunity, but I have no idea if they are talking.

I do know that we are not in discussions, with anyone. This will leave us where we have always been, the smallest of the big publishers.

On DOJ Lawsuit

 There are two reasons we decided not to settle. First, it is hard to settle when you have done nothing wrong. Much as the lawyers explain to me that settling is completely standard business procedure, it still seems fundamentally flawed to me somehow. Call me old-fashioned. The second reason is the more important one. Since the very beginning, the government’s demands have never wavered in all our discussions. They still insist on the two year discounting regime that forms the heart of the agreement signed by the three settling publishers.

On Sales

At this writing 26% of our total sales this year have been digital. It is good to remember that means 74% of Macmillan’s total sales are ink on paper books. Just as in 2011, the percentage of e-book sales has remained consistent week by week through the year for the most part (the big uplift in the last two years has occurred the week after Christmas). Our e-book business has been softer of late, particularly for the last few weeks, even as the number of reading devices continues to grow. Interesting.

On DRM

This year we went DRM-free at TOR. It is still too early to tell the outcome, but initial results suggest there was no increase in piracy.

Much More in the Full Text of Sargent’s Letter

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.