As the pandemic continues to impact the country, Penguin Random House has announced that it is extending its temporary digital license terms for libraries through December 31, 2020.
"With the uncertainty of what this upcoming school year will bring—either home-learning, in-classroom or a combination of both—and the pressures that our library partners are facing with closures, modified openings and budget constraints, we are extending our Temporary Library Terms of Sale," reads a note sent to digital vendors from Penguin Random House senior v-p Skip Dye. "It is clear that this extension is necessary to assist in meeting the needs of patrons and homebound school kids," Dye writes, adding that announcing the extension now will hopefully give librarians and educators a chance to better plan for the rest of the year.
Under the terms of its temporary program, PRH is offering libraries the option to license e-books and digital audio for one-year terms at a 50% prorated price as an alternative to the existing two-year term (for e-books) or perpetual access (for digital audio). A cost-per-circulation model is also available.
The news comes after PRH last month announced that it is also extending its Open License for online story time and read-aloud videos through December 31. The program was first announced in March to encourage digital read-aloud sessions for libraries and schools closed by the novel coronavirus outbreak. PRH officials say that program has surpassed more than 25,000 unique requestors since it began.
In March, librarians told PW the change in PRH's terms was appreciated and useful as libraries tried to minimize the impact of physical closures on their digital holds lists—and their budgets. But nearly five months after many states announced their initial shutdowns, the pandemic appears to be worsening. As of yesterday, U.S. public health officials reported more than 4.6 million total cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., and on Sunday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN that the country has entered "a new phase" of the pandemic.
"What we are seeing today is different from March and April. [The novel coronavirus] is extraordinarily widespread," Birx told CNN's Dana Bash. "We definitely need to take more precautions."
The rising infection numbers leave the immediate future of libraries and schools in doubt, and figures to keep the demand for digital resources, which has surged during the first months of the pandemic, running high.
In a blog post last month, OverDrive, the market-leading provider of digital resources to public libraries and schools, reported that 105 library systems were on on pace to surpass one million digital checkouts in 2020, up from the previous record of 73 libraries set last year.
"This year has been unique for a myriad of reasons, as we all know, and perhaps most of which is the massive amount of time we’re all spending at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic," the OverDrive post notes, adding that the company added more than 300,000 new Instant Digital library Cards from March through June. "While it’s unknown when libraries will fully open up physical branches to their communities," the post adds, "libraries will continue to provide quality content that can be safely enjoyed at home and users are responding, leading to a record-setting digital reading pace for 2020."