Tuesday, November 22, 2011

E-Book Library Wars

Photo Credit: MediaBeat
The big e-book news today is that one of the Big-Six publishers, Penguin, has decided to withhold its new titles from public libraries.  This was accomplished simply by requesting that the titles be removed and withheld from the OverDrive software that delivers e-book content to library patrons.  Even worse, Penguin is asking that OverDrive no longer deliver its older titles to library patrons wanting to borrow them from public libraries across the country by using the "Get for Kindle" option.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, none of the Big-Six publishers have made their books available through the special Kindle Lending Library, but Penguin has taken that refusal a giant step forward.  Penguin claims to have major security concerns - most likely having to do with piracy of the company's books.

The other five Big-Six publishers have had their own way of dealing with public libraries, with Simon & Schuster (publisher of that absolutely wonderful new book by our brain dead friend, Snookie) and MacMillian never having allowed any of their e-books to loaned by libraries.  HarperCollins has perhaps the most ridiculous e-book policy of them all in that it will allow copies of its e-books to be borrowed only 26 times before they have to be removed from a library's "shelf."  HarperCollins claims this is akin to the life span of a physical book, although many have disputed their math - me included.  Hatchette has a policy that disallows libraries possession of its bestselling e-books (only backlist titles appear to be available for check-out).

But Random House deserves a paragraph all its own: it does not restrict the use of its e-book titles by public libraries at all.  (Here's hoping this translates into increased sales for this publisher.)

Frankly, I don't think that pirates are working from copies of e-books borrowed from libraries because the Big-Six do not seem to have been any more successful in protecting their titles than has any other publisher.

Around and around we go...


  1. I guess it is going to take awhile for them to sort it all out. I hope they will see the sense in making all formats available to library patrons.

  2. Oh for pete's sake. I don't know how other people react, but if a book is not at the library (I read paper books, but the principle is the same), I just don't read it. I don't have enough money to buy all the books I read. If I can't get a book at the library, then I go to the next one on my list of 300 titles that I want to read.

  3. Kathleen, I hope they figure out this whole e-book distribution thing before they make the same kind of deadly mistakes made by the record labels. Hardly anyone buys whole albums anymore - and I think the labels are largely responsible for that.

  4. I hear you, Factotum. I'm a little surprised at the variety of Big Six attitudes, however, and wonder which will ultimately prevail. These are critical business decisions that have the capacity to make or break publishers.