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Summary:

Hachette announced Wednesday that it will make all of its ebooks, including new titles, available to libraries nationwide. New ebooks will be priced at three times the cost of the print version, but a library only has to buy a copy once.

A year after it launched a pilot program making new ebooks available to some libraries, Big 6 publisher Hachette announced Wednesday that it will make its entire catalog of over 5,000 ebooks available to libraries nationwide as of May 8.

New ebooks will be available to libraries at the same time as the print edition. For new ebooks, Hachette is charging libraries three times the price of the “primary” print book. One year after publication, the price of an ebook will drop to 1.5 times the price of the print book. Hachette defines “primary” book price as “the highest-price edition then in print. The ebooks can be checked out an unlimited number of times (with each ebook only available to one patron at a time), and the library does not have to buy a new copy after a year. The publisher says it will review its pricing policy annually.

Hachette is working with all three major library distributors: Overdrive, Baker & Taylor and 3M. Because Hachette is working with Overdrive, this means that the ebooks will be available for Kindle.

The last couple of months have brought many changes to Big 6 publishers’ ebook lending policies, with Penguin and Simon & Schuster both announcing changes to their programs. Penguin announced in March that it would begin making new ebooks available to libraries again, a year after it had pulled them, though it is still only working with a limited number of libraries in a pilot program. Simon & Schuster is making its ebooks available to New York City public libraries in a trial.Random House makes all of its ebooks available to libraries, but at prices as much as three times higher than the retail price. HarperCollins allows its ebooks to be checked out 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Macmillan is running a two-year trial that makes 1,200 older ebooks available to libraries.

  1. I’m glad to see bigger trade publishers now seeing for themselves the potential that e-books have in libraries. It is long ‘overdue’ (pardon the pun) and what the patrons (and the librarians themselves want). In time I could see Patron-Driven Acquistion becoming more of a critical factor in the selection and weeding of a library’s current holdings, both in print and digital.

    But at 3x the “primary” price, which I read as the ‘list price’ of the book that would be found on the shelves of many High Street retailers, there is nothing to encourage the reader to buy their e-books for less than that via any of the leading eBook merchants. I have read in some instances that much of the front list of a publisher’s catalogue offered to public libraries is greatly reduced.

    Libraries are forced into this pricing plan without much say. What is the rationale for this?

    Perhaps development costs and distribution, but once a publisher has made that transition into converting p-book to e-book there is no reason to continue charging such a high price. I get the impression it is all about the margins.

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