Macmillan will launch a pilot program selling ebooks to public libraries, CEO John Sargent announced today. The pilot, which will launch in the first quarter of this year, involves more than 1200 backlist titles from the Minotaur imprint, which handles mysteries and crime fiction. That’s “all but a handful of Minotaur’s available e-book backlist titles,” Allison Lazarus, president of Macmillan’s sales division, told LJ. All the titles will have the same digital list price.
Andrew Martin, Publisher of Minotaur, said in a statement, “The libraries have always been great supporters of the Minotaur publishing program and a critical mainstay of the category. I am delighted that our books will be the entry of Macmillan into library e-lending.”
Macmillan will distribute the books under the agency model and work with multiple distributors, including OverDrive, Axis 360, and the 3M Cloud Library. Michael Lovett, Public Relations & Social Media Specialist at OverDrive, told LJ the titles will be $25 each. (For comparison purposes, consumer Kindle and Nook versions of some of the bestselling titles in the program go for $7.99-$11.99.) Once purchased by a library, each will be available for two years or 52 circulations, whichever comes first.
The model Macmillan chose is a hybrid, in some ways similar to HarperCollins’ 26 loan cap (though twice as generous), and in others similar to Penguin’s pilot, with its one year expiration (though again, twice as long). (Random House remains the only one of the Big Six publishers to sell ebooks to libraries that don’t expire, albeit at substantially higher prices than the same books are sold to consumers; it remains to be seen how the pending Random House/Penguin merger will impact this policy.)
As with HarperCollins, despite the circulation limit, libraries can’t simply circulate the book to 52 patrons simultaneously and then buy another one; Lazarus told LJ, “The program is one user at a time, so they would have to buy multiple copies for more than one simultaneous borrower.”
Macmillan’s project has been coming for a while. In September 2012, Macmillan confirmed that a pilot was in the works, though the company wasn’t yet ready to divulge the details. And in December 2012, Sargent narrowed down the timing to early this year and said it would encompass a “limited part” of Macmillan’s list, both of which are consistent with today’s announcement.
In 2011, Macmillan president Brian Napack said Macmillan had “spent a long time looking for a business model” for putting Macmillan ebooks in libraries, and as late as last February, even after meeting with American Library Association leadership, were still expressing concerns that “customers who have typically been book buyers do not migrate their purchasing into borrowing as accessibility to our books becomes frictionless.” Those concerns appear to have been alleviated: Sargent said today that “we do not expect it will heavily impact our retail sales over time.”
However any expansion or continuation of the program depends on how the pilot performs. “We will look at the results throughout the duration of the pilot,” said Lazarus, “and will make assessments along the way as to whether to expand the title selection and whether to continue the program as launched beyond the two-year term.” Among the decisions not yet made, according to Lazarus, is whether, if any expansion is indicated, Macmillan will add backlist titles from other imprints, frontlist titles from Minotaur, or both.–Meredith Schwartz, News Editor of Library Journal
For more on the announcement, see below:
Macmillan has announced details of its first foray into licensing trade ebooks to libraries, following a letter late last year from CEO John Sargent indicating the publisher’s intentions.
The details from the Macmillan release:
The pilot program is set to launch before the end of first quarter in 2013. Under the agency model, and working with multiple distributors, Macmillan will offer over 1,200 backlist eBooks from its Minotaur Books mystery and crime fiction imprint, a part of the St. Martins Publishing Group. The titles cover all sub-categories of crime fiction from thrillers to cozies, hard-boiled crime to psychological suspense and include many award winners. Once purchased by a library, the titles will be available to them to lend for 2 years or 52 lends, whichever comes first. All of the books in the program will have the same digital list price.
The titles will be available through a number of distributors, and at the launch through Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 Digital Media Library, OverDrive and the 3M Cloud Library.
Marking the beginning of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, ALA President Maureen Sullivan lauded the move in a statement:
Almost exactly one year ago, the ALA began this conversation with Macmillan CEO John Sargent and his leadership team, and regular communications have continued as the company stated it would launch its pilot last September. While today’s announcement is only a first step, we look forward to the release of more details about the pilot and continuing work together to bring even more Macmilllan e-titles to libraries in the future.
Similar to the latest efforts from Penguin, the program is a tentative effort sidestepping frontlist titles for the time being while the publisher collects data on from the pilot.
UPDATE (Jan. 25, 2012) A Small Sample of the Titles Macmillan is Making Available to Libraries
- Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
- In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming
- The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
- Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
- The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
- Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
- A Taint in the Blood by Dana Stabenow
- Blue Heaven by C.J. Box
- Burn by Nevada Barr
- The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews
- A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander
- A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch