Nearly two years after Penguin pulled its e-book titles from Overdrive, the market-leading e-book lending service, Penguin titles are finally coming back. According to a statement from OverDrive yesterday more than 17,000 Penguin e-books are again available for purchase. Titles can be licensed for one year, with frontlist titles to be priced at $18.99, and backlist titles ranging from $5.99 to $9.99.
In addition, Penguin will also expand its relationship with Baker & Taylor, making its e-books available to all Baker & Taylor Axis 360 customers. B&T had been in a pilot mode since late last fall with library systems in Los Angeles, and Cleveland.
The moves are the latest in Penguin’s reengagement with the library e-book lending market. It recently also expanded its relationship with vendor 3M, and removed a six-month embargo period on frontlist titles.
Penguin’s return to OverDrive, however, also reflects the ongoing friction between the publisher and Amazon.
It was OverDrive’s exclusive deal to enable Kindle lending that played a key part in Penguin’s decision to first sever its relationship with OverDrive, with Penguin officials citing murky “security concerns.” Penguin officials never elaborated on those concerns, but OverDrive’s David Burleigh told PW at the time that there was no incident at OverDrive where the “security” of any titles was compromised, or in question. Burliegh yesterday did not comment on the matter, noting that any such restictions were the domain of the publishers.
Critics had also complained that OverDrive’s relationship with Amazon sent library users to Amazon’s site to complete the e-book lend, essentially delivering library users—and the data they generate—to Amazon.
In resuming its relationship with OverDrive, users will again be able to read Penguin library e-books on Kindles, but they must now “sideload” the books via a USB connection directly to their devices—over the air downloads are not allowed for the Kindle.
With sideloading, users are still sent to Amazon’s site to complete the lend, and must still sign into their Kindle accounts to sideload e-books. The sideload adds a level of inconvenience for library users reading Penguin titles on Kindles—but that inconvenience may be the point. The major publishers have long expressed concern that library e-book borrowing lacked “friction” like the traditional library market, where physical books must be picked up, and returned, for example.
Of note, despite the recent merger of Penguin and Random House, the publishers will retain their individual library e-book lending policies for the time being. Random House offers its entire catalogue for “perpetual access” at a higher price to libraries.
Penguin’s return to OverDrive and its expansion with Baker & Taylor is the latest development between publishers and libraries in the library e-book market.
In May, Hachette announced that it would make its full e-book catalog available to libraries.
In April, Simon & Schuster, the final holdout, launched an e-book lending pilot with vendors 3M and Baker &Taylor, meaning that all of the big six publishers are now enabling library e-book lending in some form.
And, in January, Macmillan launched a pilot project with its Minotaur imprint.
HarperCollins continues to offer its e-books for around the same price as print, but for a 26-lend period before books must be re-purchased.