Yolo County Library

Publisher Boycott

Updated March 24, 2020

Publisher Boycott press release

Blackstone request letter


In October 2019, Yolo County Library was the first library in California to boycott Macmillan due to the publishing company’s implementation of a restrictive embargo on public libraries. Since then, 96 library systems joined the boycott. These libraries represented 1,281 locations in 28 states, and served 50.4 million people, which is 15.4% of the total U.S. population.


March 17, 2020 – In a surprise announcement, Macmillan abandoned its controversial embargo on new release e-books in libraries, effective this week.

“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” reads a brief memo from Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed to librarians, authors, illustrators, and agents. “Macmillan will return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times…”

Yolo County Library will begin purchasing new release Macmillan eBook titles after the company rescinded its embargo on public libraries on March 17, 2020.

Yolo County Library’s boycott of Blackstone Publishing remains in effect.


Blackstone Publishing has embargoed eAudiobook titles from purchase by public libraries for 90 days after their release date.  Yolo County Library joined the Washington Digital Library Consortium’s boycott of Blackstone Publishing’s eAudiobooks in response to this prohibition on library purchases.  Yolo County Library’s boycott of Blackstone’s new eAudiobook titles begins November 1, 2019 and will run through April 30, 2020.

Macmillan Publishers launched a library eBook embargo; its new digital content terms for libraries will allow libraries to purchase a single perpetual-access eBook copy of each new Macmillan title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release. After eight weeks, libraries can then license additional copies for $60 per copy for a term of two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first. Yolo County Library finds these terms unacceptable and is boycotting the purchase of new Macmillan eBooks for six months.  This boycott is effective November 1, 2019 and will run through April 30, 2020.

Why are we taking this action?

Blackstone and Macmillan are preventing public libraries from purchasing new eAudiobooks and eBooks when they are released, thereby creating barriers to access for patrons. The publishers’ justification for this action is that they lose sales to libraries as customers forego buying and borrow instead. However, studies suggest that libraries are an essential part of the publishing ecosystem that promotes books, reading, and learning.

One study compiled by the Panorama Project showed that 50% of all library users report purchasing books by an author they were introduced to in the library. Patrons “try-out” books at the library and then go back and purchase their favorites for their personal libraries and as gifts.

What do we want to accomplish?

Through collective impact with support from the library community, we are seeking the following outcomes:

  • Blackstone Publishing will stop its embargo of new release eAudiobooks.
  • Macmillan Publishers will stop its embargo of new eBooks.
  • Other publishers will rethink the premise that libraries will continue to do business with them regardless of the barriers publishers implement.

How will this impact patrons?

Yolo County Library has made our patrons aware of the boycott by sharing information with our traditional media channels, and on our website and social media platforms.

We believe that the boycott is a necessary step to counter increasing costs and limitations on the part of publishers.

We will continue to purchase Blackstone and Macmillan products in other formats that are not impacted by the embargoes.

We will continue to add new eBook and eAudiobook content to our digital collection, choosing items from other publishers.

Previously-published Macmillan eBooks and Blackstone eAudiobooks already in the digital collection will not be affected.

You can help!

Yolo County Library encourages you to stand with us and work toward a more just outcome for the greater reading community.

Encourage your own library system to join this boycott.

Join the hundreds of thousands of readers who have added their names to a petition launched by the American Library Association at eBooksForAll.org.

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