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Summary:

Since Penguin announced yesterday that it is ending its partnership with OverDrive and will no longer provide e-books or digital audiobooks…

Kindle Public Library Loan
photo: Amazon

Since Penguin announced yesterday that it is ending its partnership with OverDrive and will no longer provide e-books or digital audiobooks to libraries, it’s become clear that OverDrive’s relationship with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) played a part in the decision.

Back in November when Penguin stopped offering new e-books to libraries, it also stopped offering e-books to library patrons using Kindles. A few days later Penguin restored Kindle access, but also noted, “Penguin informed suppliers to libraries that it expected them to abide by existing agreements to offer older digital titles to libraries only if those files were held behind the firewalls of the suppliers.”

I noted at the time that if you have a Kindle and check out a library book on it, clicking “Get for Kindle” sends you straight to Amazon’s website instead of having you check out the book from within the library’s site. Kindle borrowing is done over the air, so if you check out a library book on Kindle it will be delivered wirelessly to your device, just like a book you buy from the Kindle Store.

That wasn’t how it was supposed to be. “OverDrive does NOT have permission to first authorize the lending of an ebook to a library end user and then forward the request for actual distribution and tracking of the title to Amazon.com or ANY other retailer,” writes InfoDocket today. “Similarly, in most situations, publishers do not permit retailers to lend e-books directly to end users.”

Libraries that already have Penguin e-books and digital audiobooks will be allowed to keep them and patrons will able to keep borrowing those books. But there’s no more wireless borrowing. InfoDocket reports that OverDrive sent this e-mail to its library partners last night:

Starting tomorrow (February 10, 2012), Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of e-books and download audiobooks for library purchase. Additionally, Penguin eBooks loaned for reading on Kindle devices will need to be downloaded to a computer then transferred to the device over USB. For library patrons, this means Penguin eBooks will no longer be available for over-the-air delivery to Kindle devices or to Kindle apps.

Let’s be honest: The over-the-air delivery of library e-books to Kindle is incredibly convenient. It’s just about as easy as buying an e-book from the Kindle Store. From the point of view of the publishers, that is too easy.

So what happens now? Penguin said yesterday “it is vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together.” That future is likely to make the e-book borrowing process a little more complicated, a little less convenient — in other words, less like shopping and more like, well, going to the library.

  1. I used to be a big fan of Penguin because they were about the only publishers of unabridged classics. This decision, however, shows they have a real Luddite streak. Downloading & transferring through USB is ancient technology & ridiculous today. Penguin can keep its books. 

  2. This is silly. If they make it too hard, people will just pirate.

    Creating artificial barriers in order to protect this supposed “value” that the publishers are adding is exactly the wrong strategy. No wonder everyone wants to cut them out. They don’t add anything to the process. They act as unwanted gatekeepers.
    I am enjoying watching these publishers become obsolete as the industry is thrown upside down. Instead of focusing on innovating they put their energy into impeding progress and these futile attempts to reverse the benefits that technology brings to readers. 

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