Penguin officials have confirmed that its latest titles will not be available for library lending in e-book editions via OverDrive. In a statement, Penguin spokesperson Erica Glass told PW that “due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format, while we resolve concerns with our business partners.”
In a statement on its library blog, OverDrive said that Penguin sent notice to the company last week that it was “reviewing terms for library lending of their e-books,” and in the interim has instructed the company to “suspend availability of new Penguin e-book titles," and to disable the recently launched “Get for Kindle” program for all Penguin e-books. OverDrive said it “was hopeful Penguin would agree to restore access to new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible” but neither side offered a timeline for when that might happen. In a concession that is unlikely to satisfy librarians or the surging demand of readers for e-books at their libraries, Glass assured readers that “physical editions" of new Penguin titles "will continue to be available in libraries everywhere."
Penguin officials at press time declined to elaborate on what “new” security concerns may have emerged for its new titles, but OverDrive’s David Burleigh told PW there was no incident he was aware of at OverDrive where the "security" of any titles has been questioned or compromised, fueling speculation that Penguin’s actions may be directed at Amazon, which recently drew the ire of authors, agents, and publishers with the launch of its Amazon Prime lending model.
In an e-mail statement provided to Publishers Weekly, ALA’s Carrie Russell, the director of the Public Access to Information program, responded: “While we are pleased that Penguin chooses to sell e-books to libraries (unlike some other publishers), we are disappointed in their decision to delay sales of new titles to libraries. Penguin says that they have security concerns with library sales which we find puzzling. There is no evidence that security breaches have been tied to public libraries or library users. One would think this is more of an issue with everyday consumers or hackers who do not want to pay for e-books. “ (For Peter Brantley's take on the matter, see his blog post in this issue).
OverDrive powers the majority of library e-book lending. Through September 30, 2011, Overdrive officials say e-book checkouts at libraries had tripled over 2010, with more than two million new users signed up in 2011. And while data since the launch of the Amazon Kindle lending program with OverDrive has not been announced, Kindle is by far the most popular format for e-books, and anecdotal evidence suggests the program has seen strong participation.