Simon & Schuster, one of the last holdouts among the big New York trade houses that did not offer e-books for library lending, has announced a one-year pilot e-book lending program with New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library. Under the pilot program, S&S will make its complete catalogue available to libraries for unlimited checkout for a period of one year—after which, the e-books much be repurchased—while also making all titles also available for retail purchase via the library web site.

Under the new pilot program—scheduled to launch April 30 for NYPL and Brooklyn, and mid-May for Queens—library patrons can borrow an e-book, or they may purchase a copy of an S&S e-book from library Web sites and the libraries will receive a share of the proceeds from each sale. Libraries can purchase any S&S e-book title—frontlist or backlist—for lending for a year from the date of purchase. Each title can still only be checked out one user at a time—despite the ability to offer an unlimited number of digital copies. But unlike the HarperCollins model—which limited library checkouts to 26 per title—during the year of purchase, there is no limit on the number of checkouts for any title.

Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of S&S, said, “We are delighted to partner with these libraries, which have shown an extraordinary willingness to try innovative models with the potential to be a longterm solution for all involved.”

Asked about pricing, both for library circulation and retail purchase, a spokesperson for S&S said pricing will be "quite competitive" but declined to give specific pricing information and referred PW to its partners in the program, 3M, BiblioCommons, and B&T.

Taking note that the pilot program was announced during National Library Week, American Library Association president Maureen Sullivan released a statement emphasizing that the ALA is “pleased” that S&S has “recognized the vital roles of libraries in supporting reading in all its formats,” and called for the program to be expanded beyond New York City. “As we celebrate the 55th annual National Library Week, it is a particularly fortuitous time for the publisher to join its Big Six colleagues by providing access to e-books through our nation’s libraries,” Sullivan said. “We hope that Simon & Schuster will extend its pilot to libraries beyond New York City in the near future. Books and knowledge—in all their forms—are essential. The ALA and our members welcome new and expanded digital access for all.”

Tony Marx, president of New York Public Library, called the pilot program “a path-breaking step that will ensure that as e-book readership grows our citizens can enjoy access to books akin to what the library has always provided.” Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda E. Johnson said the new deal will enable the organization to accomplish its “fundamental mission” of “expanding access to knowledge,” by “dramtically increasing the number of e-books we offer.” And Queens Library president and CEO Thomas W. Galante said the program “is an important step in the right direction. It not only gives our customers access to some of the hottest titles, it also offers an innovation to allow patrons to purchase titles and support the library at the same time.”

The 3M company will support the digital distribution of titles for New York Public and the Brooklyn Library and BiblioCommons will support the e-commerce for both library systems. Baker & Taylor will support the lending and e-commerce functions for the Queens Library.

“In making our full list vailable we think we will get a better sense of lending pattersn and patron behavior,” Reidy said, “I am particularly eager to start seeing the actual data so that we can better understand this still-new phenomenon.”