Random House Will Keep All Its E-Books In Libraries, With A Price Increase

Random House is now the only big six publisher to allow unrestricted access to all of its e-books in libraries — and it said yesterday it will continue to do so, though it is raising prices.

Random House met with the American Library Association in New York on Tuesday. “Our commitment to libraries, as imperative to our momentum, if not to our existence as publishers, is greater than ever,” Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum told Library Journal blog The Digital Shift.

Random House’s reaffirmation of its commitment to e-books in libraries comes at a time when other big-six publishers are reassessing their policies. Penguin recently announced that it will no longer make new e-books or new digital audiobooks available to libraries. HarperCollins allows an e-book to be checked out only 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Hachette, Simon & Schuster (NYSE: CBS) and Macmillan do not make e-books available to libraries at all.

Random House will raise the e-book prices it charges to library wholesalers like OverDrive, starting on March 1. Those wholesalers provide the e-books to libraries, so the prices that libraries pay will also go up. The rationale for the price increase, Applebaum told The Digital Shift, is to align e-book pricing with digital audiobook pricing, which “has digital audio books for library lending at a higher price point than digital audio books sold at retail.”

E-book checkouts from libraries are increasing rapidly. OverDrive recently reported that libraries’ digital checkouts (including digital audiobooks and other digital materials as well as e-books) were up 133 percent in 2011 over 2010, with 35 million digital titles checked out.