Ever since the merger between Random House and Penguin was announced, librarians have been left to wonder which terms of sale for library e-books would ultimately win out: Penguin’s cheaper, but limited licensing terms? Or Random House’s more expensive, but perpetual access terms? Now, we know: it will be the Random House terms.
Penguin Random House executives announced today that all Penguin e-books purchased by libraries after January 1, 2016, will be licensed on the perpetual access model now used by Random House.
Currently, Penguin e-books are licensed to libraries with a one-year expiration date, and priced close to consumer prices. Going forward, all Penguin Random House e-books will be sold under the same perpetual access license terms—which means no cap on the number of loans—although, with higher prices ranging from just under $20 per title to a newly set maximum of $65. The $65 cap, however, is a reduction from the current Random House cap in the U.S. of $85 per title ($95 in Canada). Penguin Random House sales to libraries will continue to be handled exclusively by library wholesalers.
The news, which comes just weeks before the ALA Midwinter Meeting, set for Boston, January 8-12, could have big ramifications on the library e-book market in 2016: Penguin Random House books routinely comprise about half of all titles on national bestseller lists.
UPDATE: ALA President Sari Feldman has issued the following statement: “Libraries will be pleased that the combined Penguin Random House license will ensure perpetual access to e-titles, and all will be glad the previous ceiling of $85 per title has been reduced. But I also know many of my colleagues will miss the flexibility of paying near-consumer prices for e-copies they may not wish to maintain indefinitely, and some will be unable to afford to provide access to the e-books their communities seek.”