Thursday, November 24, 2011

EBook Selection Diminishes as Penguin Pulls Out of Library EBook Lending

Given that my last two blog posts were on eBooks, I had intended to write on a different topic this week. However, it was not to be so. On Monday, November 21, Penguin Group USA announced that it would stop the library lending of new eBook titles and stop all library lending of its Kindle editions, citing security concerns as the reason for their withdraw. OverDrive posted a cursory message about this on their website, while Library Journal’s “The Digital Shift” fleshed out the situation a bit more. The story was additionally picked up in the mainstream media by Forbes.

While obviously unhappy about this new set-back in the eBook realm, my scan of the library world picked up morose undertones that did not characterize the backlash to HarperCollins' move earlier this year. Librarians seem to be increasingly pessimistic as we are being slow shut out of the eBook market. In her reaction to the situation, Librarian by Day noted that of the six big publishers only RandomHouse is playing nice with libraries. This is, admittedly, quite awful, since library patrons have ever-increasing expectations about what the library should provide.

The real problem is that the publishing industry is in flux and trying to desperately to safeguard their profits, as Andy Woodworth points out in “The Ever Increasing Disappointment with eBooks.” Until the sector straightens itself out, we will likely continue to see this sort of erratic behavior. Although there is no telling what the outcome will be, the publishing industry’s shift to digital has recreated a situation more than reminiscent of what the music industry underwent in the early 2000s. This likeness leads me to wonder if we are headed towards a total restructuring of the publishing industry, including a full-blown explosion of the eBook pricing bubble (see my post Ebooks: The New Normal).

My only hope is that libraries will be able to stay in the eBook game, no matter what happens. The publishing industry has much to gain by recognizing libraries for what they are and an eBook sold to a library is, unquestionably, an eBook not pirated, no matter how many times it circulates. For more compelling reasons why publishers should value libraries, see Librarian By Day’s follow-up post: "9 Reasons Publishers Should Stop Acting Like Libraries are the Enemy and Start Thanking Them."


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I too hope publishers start to play nice-I didn't realize it was just down to Random House now.

  2. Looks like I missed one key player from my post. The day after the announcement, ALA issued this statement: