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Penguin, which removed all of its e-books from libraries and ended its relationship with digital library distributor OverDrive in February, is tiptoeing back into the digital lending waters again. In a one-year pilot program with OverDrive competitor 3M, beginning in August, Penguin will make e-books available to the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. If that program goes well, Penguin will open up its e-books to libraries across the country.
3M doesn’t currently support Amazon (s AMZN)’s Kindle, the most popular e-reader in the country.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the pilot, in an effort to protect paid e-book sales, “will delay the release of e-books to the libraries for six months after the titles go on sale in stores and online.” Christopher Platt, NYPL director of collections and circulation, tells the WSJ “he hopes Penguin might eventually agree to make some titles available immediately, while retaining the six-month delay for hot-selling titles.”
Each e-book will expire after a year and the library will have to buy it again.
Other big-six publishers also have restrictions on e-book library lending, or do not make e-books available at all. Random House is the only big-six publisher that makes all of its e-books available to libraries, but it sharply increased its prices in March. HarperCollins allows an e-book to be borrowed 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Hachette is offering new e-books to some libraries, also in a pilot program, but hasn’t confirmed which libraries or distributors it is working with. Simon & Schuster and Macmillan do not make e-books available to libraries at all.
Troubles with Kindle
When Penguin first removed its e-book titles from OverDrive in November 2011, it cited “concerns about the security of our digital editions” and also stopped lending e-books to libraries through Kindle (s AMZN). Specifically, Penguin might have been angry that when a library patron selects “Get for Kindle” on OverDrive, he or she is sent straight to Amazon’s website (rather than checking out the book from within the library site) and has to be logged into his or her Amazon account to get the book.
3M is in talks with Amazon to provide support for Kindle, but it doesn’t do so yet. The Kansas State Library, another library working with 3M, said recently that “Amazon had asked to postpone discussion with 3M until June (back in March) so we are hoping to receive more information soon.”
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