In an August 30 letter to library customers, Penguin Random House announced that it is changing its terms for library e-book lending. But unlike Macmillan’s controversial decision to experiment with a four-month embargo on new Tor titles, PRH officials say their change is “good news.”
As of October 1, 2018, PRH is moving from a perpetual access model (where libraries pay a higher price but retain access to the e-book forever) to a metered model (with lower prices on e-books that expire after two years). In a letter to library customers, PRH v-p Skip Dye said the change was made after listening to librarians' feedback.
“We have heard–loud and clear–that while libraries appreciate the concept of ‘perpetual access,’ the reality is that circs for many titles drop off dramatically six to eight months after the initial release. This is true especially for fiction bestsellers,” Dye wrote. “Most librarians are telling us they would rather pay lower prices across our frontlists and backlists, in exchange for a copy that expires after a given time period. In response to this feedback, we are happy to tell you that we will be lowering our prices on our entire catalogue of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction titles. Under our new terms, e-books will expire after two years from original purchase date with the aligned pricing lowered for our e-books.”
After October 1, libraries' previously purchased ‘perpetual access’ e-books will remain permanently owned. In addition, PRH announced that the publisher will be creating a program exclusively for academic libraries, under which they will be able to purchase perpetual access copies, although at “a significantly higher price” than public library copies.
The change in terms will apply to all Penguin Random House U.S., Penguin Random House Canada, DK and DK Canada titles. Under the new pricing, frontlist adult titles in the U.S. will be priced up to $55 (currently, adult prices are capped at $65.); Young adult titles up to $45; and children’s titles up to $35. The changes do not apply to e-books distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.
Notably—in stark contrast to Macmillan's recent "test"—Dye reiterated PRH’s commitment to keeping all PRH e-books available to libraries on publication date, with no embargoes. In July, Macmillan officials told librarians in a brief message that it was testing an embargo on new Tor e-books in libraries, saying that library e-book lending appeared to be having a "direct and adverse" effect on retail e-book sales. PRH apparently does not see such a connection.
“Penguin Random House is firmly committed to making our e-books available to library patrons on the same day they become available to retail consumers,” Dye wrote. “We believe strongly that libraries help build readership for our authors and having our books available promptly to them at the on-sale date is an important way for us to support the valuable work that public libraries do, particularly in their relationship with their patrons.”
The change was not unexpected. As PW reported last month, following Macmillan’s sudden decision to embargo Tor e-book titles, PRH would not rule out changes, but suggested those changes would be to offer more flexibility.
Also, in contrast to Macmillan officials, who declined to consult or even warn librarians before instituting its embargo on Tor e-books (or apparently after), PRH officials say they will remain engaged with its library partners. “Public libraries are highly valued partners for us," Dye wrote, "and we look forward to working together to expand readership for our books and foster greater connectivity with you and your patrons, in the years ahead.”