March 6, 2024

The Publisher Playbook: A Timeline

This post is part of a series of resources produced by our Student Research Fellows in Fall 2023. The content does not necessarily reflect the official position of the organization.

Information and resources shouldn’t be behind a paywall. From removing accessibility features on e-readers to preventing academic libraries from sharing resources with students, throughout history, publishing companies have challenged and restricted libraries and culture through litigation and legislation. Creators deserve to be fairly compensated for their work, but the profits from selling books and other materials often go to publishing companies rather than authors themselves.

Based on “The Publisher Playbook: A Brief History of the Publishing Industry’s Obstruction of the Library Mission'' by Kyle K. Courtney and Juliya Ziskina, this timeline is a brief overview of how publishing companies have challenged intellectual freedom and library rights over time.

Many of us are following the current lawsuit four publishing giants– Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Wiley– filed against the non-profit library Internet Archive in another attempt by publishers to prevent access to library resources. “The Publisher Playbook” offers a deeper dive into the history of publishing companies and litigation against the public interest, helping us understand how we got to this moment and how copyright law has evolved over time. 


Bailey, L. (2023, December 29). Friend of the court briefs filed in Internet Archive’s appeal. Internet Archive.

Courtney, K. K., & Ziskina, J. (2023). The publisher playbook: A brief history of the publishing industry’s obstruction of the library mission.

Curran, J. (2011, September 28). Cornell University faces library digitization lawsuit. The Ithacan.

Flood, A. (2018, March 5). Philip Pullman calls for authors to get fairer share of publisher profits. The Guardian. 

Freeland, C. (2023, August 17). What the Hachette v. Internet Archive decision means for our library. Internet Archive.

Schofield, J. (2009, March 1). Amazon caves to Authors Guild over Kindle’s text-to-speech reading. The Guardian.

About the Author

Milo Santamaria was a student research fellow with Library Futures from June to December 2023. This is the final project in their fellowship portfolio, which also includes the “Libraries, You Got Rights!” copyright poster and a blog post on the Kids Online Safety Act. Milo is the webmaster at YouthFacts, a blog dedicated to advancing the rights of youth, and an MLIS student at San Jose State University. They earned their bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While at university, they were a fellow with UCSC’s Everett program, a student-led organization focused on using technology to create social change. They co-led youth workshops on prison abolition and helped maintain websites for Everett and its community partners.

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