Macmillan Publishers' new ebook policy for libraries "smacks of a cash grab," Prince Albert author Cara Stelmaschuk says.

"They want people to constantly be buying it, and at the detriment of a library, you know publically funded institution that serves so much good to people - that’s shady. ”

Libraries are a place where new authors can be discovered without advertising, she said.

“I want my books in the library, I want people to read them, and I don’t know why any bigger author who is represented by a published wouldn’t want the same thing.”

On Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers changed its purchasing model for public libraries. Previously, libraries could buy a limited number of ebooks for loan – now it's one ebook for lend at a time per library agency.

The company says it is losing money because public libraries offer books to the public for free. Libraries currently pay more than consumers for copies of ebooks to loan to patrons. This averages about eight times the amount of retail prices to the public.

“I think if you make it harder for a library to get an ebook you are just going to drive people to piracy sites, that’s my biggest concern,” Stelmaschuk said.

“It’s a changing situation with a bunch of different publishers,” Prince Albert Public Library deputy director Greg Elliott said.

Prince Albert Public Library is one of Saskatchewan's three municipal libraries that provide ebooks. All the province's public libraries are linked electronically, letting patrons borrow material from anywhere in the province.

“It will put a lot of pressure on the system,” Elliott said.

In Prince Albert, ebooks account for about 10 per cent of the materials accessed. The ability to increase the text size can make ebooks better for older readers than physical books, Elliot said.

BookNet Canada, a non-profit organization that develops technology, education and standards to serve the Canadian book industry, found in a 2018 study that lending ebooks increases sales of books and ebooks.

“They’re basically undercutting themselves, these publishers, by refusing to allow public libraries to advance these book and these authors to the general public,” Elliott said.

The Canadian Urban Libraries Council and American Library Association have a petition opposing the change.