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Summary:

Citing unspecified “concerns about the security of our digital editions,” Penguin Group USA is pulling new e-books from libraries; in additi…

Citing unspecified “concerns about the security of our digital editions,” Penguin Group USA is pulling new e-books from libraries; in addition, it is not lending any e-books to libraries through Kindle.

In a statement provided to Library Journal‘s Digital Shift blog, Penguin says that due to security–read: piracy–concerns, it finds it “necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners.”

Overdrive, the leading distributor of books to libraries, posted the following statement to its blog:

Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks. In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks. We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier. We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible.

Penguin, whose self-publishing service Book Country has already drawn quite a bit of criticism this week, is likely to receive more flak for this move. Yet it is unusual among the “big six” publishers in that it allows e-books to be borrowed through libraries at all. Macmillan and Simon & Schuster (NYSE: CBS) do not distribute any e-books (new or old) to libraries. Hachette Book Group does not allow new titles to be lent as e-books, and HarperCollins allows new e-books to be borrowed only 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. This leaves Random House as the only big six publisher currently allowing unfettered access to its e-books through libraries.

A reader also notes that OverDrive–though it’s the main player in library distribution–is not universally beloved by the publishers using it, and it’s possible there is some issue related to OverDrive’s distribution of Penguin titles, or of those titles specifically to Kindle. But that is unclear.

  1. Scott Nicholson Monday, November 21, 2011

    Awesome–open the door even wider for indies to waltz in and meet those abandoned readers! Thank you, Penguin.

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    1. Laura Hazard Owen Monday, November 21, 2011

      Is there currently a service that allows self-published authors to distribute to libraries?

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      1. Scott Nicholson Tuesday, November 22, 2011

        Laura, you can apply for an account to Overdrive. Amazon is also making some inroads with libraries so if you self-publish there you may have some access.

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  2. Agreed. This behavior is disgraceful and is leading the entire traditional publishing industry into a ditch they will not be able to climb out of.

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  3. Again Penguin is being very short-sighted.

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  4. I seriously don’t get the piracy concern. The books are already available through pirate outlets. Keeping them from the library won’t make that better. It will just drive more people to piracy. When will they get it?

    I think it’s not piracy at all but a shot at Amazon over the Lending Library thing.

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    1. Scott Nicholson Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      Yes, this is the beginning of a paradigm shift. Traditional publishing as elitist, expensive, and rare, and indie and small press as the populist literature. It won’t take long for readers to forget James Patterson ever existed.

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  5. Laura Hazard Owen Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    I’ve just posted a story on why publishers might do this: http://paidcontent.org/article/419-why-might-a-publisher-pull-its-e-books-from-libraries/  I’m not saying these are good reasons, but hoping to provide a little clarity beyond “security concerns.”

    @twitter-42768668:disqus I think they are more likely mad about the way Amazon handles library e-book checkouts, not to do with Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (but could be wrong).

    @google-7ccdff04927c1d835dc152e95076b833:disqus Thanks–I hadn’t known that self-published authors can apply for OverDrive accounts.

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  6. When four of the “big six” sell content for distritubtion as e-books by libraries, the “unusual” ones are the two that don’t.

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    1. Laura Hazard Owen Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      This is how it currently stands (see above): Simon & Schuster, Hachette & Macmillan don’t do e-book library lending at all; Penguin now offers in a limited capacity; HarperCollins lets e-books be borrowed 26 times; Random House is now the only one that offers open access.

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  7. The rebellion has already begun
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/09/idUS267009+09-Aug-2011+BW20110809

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