By Susan Benton

Major publishers are price-gouging cities and counties of all sizes and widening the digital divide through extreme limitations on e-book lending for public libraries. Now, local government leaders across the United States and Canada are standing up to support libraries in their fight for equitable e-book pricing and access.

“The importance of our libraries allowing residents and visitors easy access to digital media is priceless,” said Greensboro, NC, City Manager David Parrish. “We support the efforts underway to ensure digital media vendors do not inflate the cost of these resources, creating a financial hardship for our libraries to provide e-books.”

Parrish is one of 93 North American county and city leaders who have signed the Statement on Equitable Public Access to E-Books, developed by the Urban Libraries Council and Canadian Urban Libraries Council. This statement launched on November 1 in direct response to Macmillan Publishers’ latest restrictive policy change, which prevents libraries from buying more than a single copy of Macmillan e-books for eight weeks following their initial release.

Macmillan’s policy change follows several other severe restrictions that the “Big 5” multinational publishers have implemented in recent months. These restrictive policies intensify the longstanding issues libraries have faced due to unreasonably high prices for e-books. For instance, consumers are able to purchase Stephen King’s The Institute for about $15, while libraries are asked to pay $60, according to data provided by the Central Arkansas Library System.

The publishers’ actions to undermine public e-book access will have the greatest impact on community members who already face disproportionate barriers to participating in 21st-century life, including children, low-income individuals, and those who have vision and motor disabilities. By signing the Statement on Equitable Public Access to E-Books, local government leaders are defending the right for everyone to learn and grow in the digital age.

City, county, and town managers who are interested in adding their name to this statement should contact ULC Director of Communications Curtis Rogers at

Susan Benton is president and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council, an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. For over 30 years, her professional career has been dedicated to assisting city and county executives initiate and manage change in their organizations so that citizens and businesses are receiving the strongest possible services.


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