Friday, February 10, 2012

Kindle News 2/9 - Penguin Quits OverDrive & public libraries. Update


Michael Kelly, Editor, News for Library Journal, wrote in The Digital Shift that Penguin Group "has extricated itself from its contract with OverDrive, the primary supplier of ebooks to public libraries."

As of February 10, Penguin, will no longer offer any [more] ebooks or audiobooks through OverDrive.  In the prepared statement by Penguin Group's Erica Glass, they say they're continuing to discuss future plans "for ebook and digital audiobook availability for library lending with a number of partners providing these services."

You have to love how people treat contracts these days when they want out.   Kelley writes that Penguin is negotiating a “continuance agreement” with OverDrive, which would allow libraries that have Penguin ebooks in their catalog to continue to have access to those titles.  This is similar to what they did when they quietly removed library-lending access to Kindle books briefly last November.

3M is the big contender, Kelley says, but he describes 3M as "the still fledgling but growing competitor to Overdrive," which means Penguin has essentially shut down public library access to additional Penguin ebook titles.  New physical paper-bound titles will still be available. The Big6 publishing houses fear the effect of e-books, in general, on the 'value' of its hardcopy books.

OverDrive, which hasn't commented yet, sent the following email to its partners via a posting at InfoDocket.
' Starting tomorrow (February 10, 2012), Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of eBooks and download [of] audiobooks for library purchase.

  Additionally, Penguin eBooks loaned for reading on Kindle devices will need to be downloaded to a computer, then transferred to the device over USB.  For library patrons, this means Penguin eBooks will no longer be available for over-the-air delivery to Kindle devices or to Kindle apps.
[ AB here: I guess Amazon made it too easy for customers to get a book for reading from the library - Penguin will ensure that the method used for borrowing a book returns to the most inconvenient way -- and you'll see that spelled out below. ]
We are continuing to talk to Penguin about their future plans for eBook and digital audiobook availability for library lending. '

Kelly points out that, as a result, Penguin "joins Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette among the Big Six publishers in search of an ebook library lending model."

  So, what remains? Random House hasn't withdrawn yet, but while it's been late to join the other Big6 houses in resisting Amazon's lower pricing of e-books (although Amazon still paid publishers the same amount as before based on the higher suggested retail price), Random House has given in before.

  Then there is the reality that Random House has led the field in discouraging -- actually, disallowing -- the use of text-to-speech on most of its e-books, fearing that the mechanical voice would take too much in sales from the intelligent reading done by trained actors.

During the November brouhaha that ultimately led to the final decision yesterday to "not allow library lending of its new titles (via any vendor), Penguin had initially also targeted OverDrive’s relationship with Amazon as a particular concern, which led the company to demand that OverDrive disable the “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin ebooks."

While Penguin backed down on this, what they termed the "security concerns" apparently remain because the Kindle's Overdrive process removes the transaction from the public library "and takes place under the terms that Amazon has worked out with OverDrive" (by delivering the library books over the air, seamlessly).

All this too-convenient borrowing from public libraries has left publishers "feeling a bit left out in the cold."

Penguin insists it's still interested in the library business, mentioning that it was encouraged by recent talks with the leadership of the American Library Assocation (ALA).

The word 'Value' comes up again from a Big6 publisher
  In the past, books have been borrowable from the library without publishers referring to it (out in the open) as devaluing their books.

  They give lip service to it being "vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together" (after demolishing what exists)... "We care about preserving the value of our authors' work as well as helping libraries continue to serve their communities."

Back to the too-easy borrowing made possible by Amazon's Over-the-Air method
  Kelley mentions "publishers’ concerns that if library loans become too “frictionless,” (too convenient, too easy)  "in other words, do not involve a physical trip to the library to borrow and return a book, that it will eat into their sales."

It seems that as in Europe, the Big6 are hoping to be able to "demand a business model in which they will only make their ebooks available to public libraries if they are used in the library or if a patron is required to bring their device to the library and load the title onto the device in the library, then bring it home.

Kelley sums it up:
This would essentially eliminate all the convenience of borrowing ebooks from a home computer or device.

Update - My favorite lighter-hearted forum reaction today (most were not so light) to this news about Penguin's longing for more friction to deter the urge to borrow:   Posted by The Queen of Creative Invective:
"So, there are so many "friction" jokes that I could make, but all of them would end up being deleted.  Like this one:

If Penguin wants to get friction with me, they are going to have to at least buy me dinner first."

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  1. Wow! If they were trying to push more people to download pirated copies of their books, they couldn't do anything better.

    They already screwed readers with the agency model and now want to take away library access. What else are they going to do to alienate customers? and by customers I mean readers, not bookstores.

    I already read mostly indie books or those offered for $2.99 or less during sales. I was checking out a book here or there that I really wanted to read but for which I thought the price was ridiculous. I guess that won't be happening anymore. Since I really don't want to deal with bit torrents, I just won't be reading Big 6 published books anymore.

    This is the perfect opportunity for an enterprising person or company to aggregate indie books and books from small independent publishers into a low-cost service for libraries.

  2. Anonymous, people will always want ALSO access to traditional books, but this move is so hostile to people who read and who sometimes want to use the library, it's stunning to me.

  3. I realized just the other day that a series of Bernard Cornwell books I purchased for reading on my Kindle do not allow lending. Guess who the publisher is? Penguin. Because the person I wanted to loan them to is a family member I can let them read these on my Kindle, but seriously. I paid for the books--if I'd bought paper versions would Penguin try to prevent me from lending them? Why are they having such a hissy fit over ebooks?!

  4. Elizabeth,
    Exactly. And, why? Something along the line of $$$$ being the only focus for them, apparently. It's a panic response to the new e-world, and it's a response that won't be as useful for them as they seem to think. It's shocking to me that they'd want to make library borrowing so difficult once they allow it at all.

    Can the family member's Kindle be placed on your account, which would let them read all your books? Or do they need your own and of course you need privacy for your books...

  5. elizabeth,
    I meant, do they need -their- own? :-)

  6. It looks like the big6 publishers want people to pirate their books. They do their utmost to discourage those who would buy books, where is the surprise if then there are more downloads than sales? It does not make sense to pay if then you have less rights and waste more time than those who take a pirated copy.
    THIS is why Amazon works, and Itunes: because it's easy to buy, because the price is right (well, not for the big6 anymore) and because it's easy to use. Take away convenience, and people will go along the easiest path. It's so simple it's stunning the industry (videogames too) doesn't see that.

  7. Kelly points out that, as a result, Penguin "joins Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette among the Big Six publishers in search of an ebook library lending model."

    Interpreted: "until lenders agree to return to our out-of-date lending model, including pricing ebooks at the same price as hard-covers ..."


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