Penguin Group USA has stopped allowing libraries to lend out ebooks of their new titles according to an article at TheDigitalShift.
According to the article, Penguin stated that the reason for pulling the ebooks was due to “concerns about the security of our digital editions”. They did not state specifically what security concerns they had.
A statement from OverDrive, the largest platform for ebooks at libraries, was a little more ambiguous, “Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their ebooks”.
There are reports of a glitch with Kindles that keep a loaned book on the device after the checkout period has expired. It sounds like the bug is pretty minor and doesn’t compromise ebook security. However, this could be a factor in Penguin’s decision to pull their new titles.
There are many other possible reasons for Penguin to pull their ebooks from libraries.
Book publishers in general haven’t really figured out how they want to handle ebooks at libraries. They are still trying to work out their pricing models and the handling of the technology to make sure that their revenue is preserved and widespread piracy doesn’t occur like it did with the music industry.
This decision could be Penguin’s attempt to limit piracy of their new titles or it may be a company decision to try to maximize ebook sales by stopping lending.
Another possibility is retaliation against Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library which lends ebooks directly to Kindle owners as part of a Prime membership. Amazon apparently launched the program without the blessing of the book publishers. Amazon recently launched the Kindle Fire tablet along with new Kindles so this may be Penguin’s way of sending a message to Amazon.
Hopefully this decision is not for one of the above reasons, but is instead a legitimate security concern that is able to be resolved quickly. The more ebooks available at libraries, the better.
Either way, Penguin is one of the “Big Six” book publishers along with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don’t lend ebooks out through public libraries at all and Hachette Book Group doesn’t lend out their top ebooks so Penguin pulling their ebooks is a huge blow to libraries.
Customers with shiny new Kindles are definitely going to be dissappointed when they try to borrow an ebook from their local library.