January 25, 2022

ALA and Canadian Urban Library Council Respond to Tor Books Four-Month Embargo on Selling New Ebook Titles to Libraries

UPDATE August 18, 2018 Librarians Question Tor’s E-book Embargo (via Publishers Weekly)

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UPDATE August 10, 2018  American Library Association nor the Canadian Urban Library Council Have Received Replies to their Communications with Tor” (via Readers First)

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Multiple statements and resources follow. We will update this post with additional material if/when it becomes available.



Statement from the American Library Association:

At the beginning of July, Tor, a division of Macmillan, announced without warning that it was immediately beginning to embargo ebook sales of new titles to libraries for four months. Today American Library Association (ALA) President Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of ebooks and authors,” said Garcia-Febo. “Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

“I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

Canadian Urban Libraries Council

From Letters by Pilar Martinez Chair, Canadian Urban Libraries Council & CEO, Edmonton Public Library to:

Fritz Foy, President and Publisher, Tor Books & Tom Doherty, Chairman, Tor Books

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CULC/CBUC), regarding your four-month embargo on sales of new Tor ebooks to libraries. CULC/CBUC member libraries expend over $90 million annually on collections including $11 million on digital resources. More than 65% of all Canadians are served by a CULC/CBUC member library, and the activity in CULC/CBUC libraries comprises more than 80% of Canada’s public library activity.


CULC/CBUC is invested in the long-term health and viability of a vibrant publishing industry, which we hope will include Tor Books. We are willing to work with publishers to achieve that goal, and we will be in touch with you on August 14 to arrange a meeting to discuss and identify alternative options that would benefit your company, your authors, public libraries and all readers.

Read the Complete Letter to Foy (2 pages; PDF) and Letter to Doherty (2 pages; PDF)

Additional Resources & Background

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.