This past Saturday afternoon, I was thrilled to receive an email from Overdrive/Library2go that a library book I had reserved for my Kindle, Tana French's Faithful Place, was available for me to download. I hopped online, only to discover that the book had promptly removed itself from not only my cart, but the entire library.
I sent a help ticket to tech support, and was promptly informed that Penguin Books was no longer allowing their books to be checked out by Kindle users--users of other e-Readers were still able to check out old books, but not new releases. After some searching around online, it's been confirmed that Penguin has stopped allowing their books to be lent by libraries to Kindle users. However, curiously missing from all of the articles that I've come across thus far has been real a reason for the change.
On The Digital Shift, Penguin stated:
Penguin has been a long-time supporter of libraries with both physical and digital editions of our books. We have always placed a high value on the role that libraries can play in connecting our authors with our readers. However, due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners. Penguin’s aim is to always connect writers and readers, and with that goal in mind, we remain committed to working closely with our business partners and the library community to forge a distribution model that is secure and viable. In the meantime, we want to assure you that physical editions of our new titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.
Thank you, Penguin for that vague response that doesn't actually tell us much of anything other than you'd prefer we check out physical copies of your books rather than digital ones--but WHY?
At least at my local library branch, lending for e-books works exactly the same as it does for hard copies--the library purchases a certain number of copies, and only that number of patrons can check the book out at any given time. In essence, this isn't about the poor publishers who will no longer be making any money with the advent of e-books--that simply isn't the case. I fail to see the distinction between e-books and hard copies in terms of library lending.
What I do see is the fact that the e-books that were purchased with the very limited library budgets were able to be revoked by the publisher with very little warning. For those of us who are struggling to encourage our library branches to purchase more e-books, how do you think that reads? It certainly doesn't do much to instill confidence that e-books are as valuable as paper copies.
Some suspect that this move was actually a "power play" of sorts in a struggle between Penguin Books and Amazon. In regards to this situation, the American Library Association's president recently said,
Penguin Group’s recent action to limit access to new e-book titles to libraries has serious ramifications. The issue for library patrons is loss of access to books, period. Once again, readers are the losers.
If Penguin has an issue with Amazon, we ask that they deal with Amazon directly and not hold libraries hostage to a conflict of business models.
This situation is one more log thrown onto the fire of libraries’ abilities to provide access to books – in this case titles they’ve already purchased. Penguin should restore access for library patrons now.
I recognize that BlogHer has a strong relationship with Penguin Books, and that it may be a touchy subject to speak negatively of one of BlogHer's clients/sponsors here on the site. However, I'd like to think that BlogHer Book Club's priority is in ensuring access to books--something that Penguin has disappointingly restricted this week, and I hope you'll join me in expressing your disappointment with Penguin in this situation.
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