Library E-Books: The Reality

    ebook-3544077_640Many of you, since you follow the McAllen Public Library online, are probably familiar with our online resources. The most popular of these online resources are our e-books and digital audiobooks on the Overdrive, Libby, and RBdigital apps. You can read the latest bestsellers from the most popular authors, or try a new author and discover a new favorite. These apps provide a digital library at your fingertips, without even having to leave the house. In July, 975 McAllen Public Library patrons used the Overdrive and Libby apps, and 3,533 books were checked out on the apps.

     What you might not realize is how different the process of buying e-books is for libraries than for private individuals like yourselves. The publishing companies set very limiting restrictions for libraries to purchase e-books because they are concerned that borrowing from libraries will lead to decreased sales. Publishing companies are a for-profit business and would rather have you purchase the book than borrow it for free from a library. They want you to become frustrated with the long wait list for a popular library e-book, and then buy it instead. The publishing companies are not taking into account the fact that many patrons will try a new author they are unsure of from the library’s collection, and later buy more titles by that author if they like it. Library e-book collections help the public discover new authors and genres they might have never considered before. And just like with our print collections, our digital collections allow us to fulfill our mission of providing information to the public regardless of economic circumstances.

     The biggest difference in how libraries purchase e-books and you purchase e-books is in price. Let’s take one of the bestselling books in recent history as an example- Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It costs libraries $55 to purchase one copy of the e-book and $95 to purchase the digital audiobook. On, it only costs you $14.99 to purchase it for your Kindle. That means it costs the library almost four times as much to buy the e-book as it costs you.

    kindle-1867751_640Another very limiting restriction for library e-book purchases are the “lending terms”. When you buy a Kindle book, you get to keep it forever. It is yours to own. You would think that for $55, the library would get to keep our copy also. However, that is not the case. Most e-books eventually expire from the library’s collection, and then we have to purchase it again. Different publishing companies set different lending terms, but most e-books will expire from the library’s collection after 2 years from the date of purchase or after a certain number of checkouts (whichever happens first). A few publishing companies do sell e-books on a permanent basis, meaning they do not expire from the library’s collection, but those are becoming fewer and fewer as publishing companies set more restrictions.

    You might have already heard about some of these increased restrictions in the national news. CNN recently published an op-ed about it from a librarian in Vermont. Below, I have compiled a list new digital content restrictions for libraries from major publishing companies. Books already in our collection will not be affected, but everything purchased starting now will be. In the list, I included contact information for each publisher to give your feedback. Libraries across the country are fighting against these restrictions so that we can continue to serve you in the best way possible. However, if publishers hear from members of the public as well as library staff, it will have an even greater impact. If any of this frustrates you, then help us help you by giving the publishers your feedback.


  • Effective November 1st, Macmillan will implement the following changes for their e-book lending terms. They are not changing any digital audiobook lending terms.
    • For the first eight weeks after an e-book’s publication date, a library can purchase 1 copy only (to keep). The cost of this copy will be $30.00.
    • This is in effect a 2-month embargo by Macmillan on libraries for all new e-books. It will have a devastating effect on large library systems. Libraries must either wait 2 months to get new Macmillan titles, or only have 1 copy with thousands of holds for the first 2 months. This is not good for McAllen Public Library, but it is even worse for larger, urban public libraries.
    • After the first 8 weeks of an e-book’s publication, a library can purchase additional copies that will expire after two years. The price will be $60.00 per copy. After 1 year, the price will decrease to $40.00.
  • Contact Macmillan to give your feedback at
  • Retweet the American Library Association’s tweet to Macmillan here: or write your own tweet and use the hashtag #eBooksForAll.
  • Most popular Macmillan titles in our collection:
    • Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers
    • Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient
    • Greer Hendricks, The Wife Between Us
    • Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone
    • Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

Simon & Schuster

  • Since August 1st, digital audiobooks from Simon & Schuster have no longer been offered as a permanent purchase and will expire from our app after two years.
  • Contact Simon & Schuster to give your feedback:
    Michelle Leo
    Vice President, Director of Education & Library Marketing
  • Most popular Simon & Schuster titles in our collection:
    • Christina Lauren, The Unhoneymooners
    • Rachael Lippincott, Five Feet Apart
    • The Mueller Report
    • Jennifer Weiner, Mrs. Everything
    • Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
    • Jason Reynolds, Ghost


  • Since July 1st, all digital content (e-book and audiobook) purchased from Hachette have no longer been offered as a permanent purchase and will expire after two years.
  • Contact Hachette to give your feedback at
  • Most popular Hachette titles in our collection:
    • David Baldacci, Redemption
    • David Baldacci, Long Road to Mercy
    • Nicholas Sparks, Every Breath
    • Robert Galbraith, Lethal White
    • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
    • Oscar Casares, Brownsville

Blackstone Audio

  • Since July 1st, select digital audiobook titles have not been available for libraries to purchase until 90 days after their retail on-sale date.
  • Contact Blackstone Audio to give your feedback at
  • Most popular Blackstone Audio in our collection:
    • David Baldacci, Redemption
    • William H. McRaven, Sea Stories
    • Michael Koryta, If She Wakes
    • James Patterson, The First Lady
    • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

Correction/Clarification: I added that books already in the library’s collection will not be affected by any of these changes. 

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