Penguin eBooks Are Once Again Available via OverDrive

4609212148_777c6fdd52[1]Penguin ended their 2-year-old OverDrive boycott today.

There's a new post on the OverDrive blog this morning which reports the news that "more than 17,000 Penguin ebooks are now live and available for purchase" to OverDrive partner libraries. Readers will now be able to find their favorite Penguin titles in their local libraries.

Libraries will be able to order ebooks via OverDrive under the same contract terms as offered via Axis360 and 3M Cloud Library, both of which have been carrying Penguin ebooks since late 2012. The ebooks are licensed under a one-year expiring contract and priced at retail. Also, Penguin ebooks cannot be sent to a reader's Kindle over Whispernet (unlike other titles carried by OverDrive); Penguin won't allow it.

Penguin had abruptly ended their contract with OverDrive in November 2011, citing security concerns. This effectively removed them from the library ebook market entirely due to the fact that 3M Cloud Library and Axis360 had not fully launched nor signed contracts with Penguin at that time.

This publisher re-entered the market in September 2012 with a small pilot program run in partnership with the NYPL and 3M Cloud Library. Just over a month later that pilot was expanded to include all libraries working with 3M Cloud Library, and a week later Baker & Taylor announced that they too carried Penguin ebooks in Axis360.

BTW, an astute reader might notice that I am referring to Penguin and not the newly formed Random Penguin Solutions, a company which was created by the merger of Random House and Penguin. While one might think that Random House ebooks and Penguin ebooks would be sold to libraries under the same contract, I have been told by a contact at OverDrive (and Publisher's Marketplace confirmed) that Random Penguin Solutions is maintaining their existing contract terms.

Random House titles will continue to be sold to libraries at a steep markup while Penguin titles will be licensed under an expiring contract. If this dual contract setup seems strange or inefficient, let me remind you that we are talking about the publishing industry here.

Random House and Penguin are not the only major publishers to place restrictions on  the sale of library ebooks. Hachette, for example, sells ebook at extortionate prices while HarperCollins sell ebooks under a license which expires in one year. Macmillan only sells a small fraction of their back list to libraries, and Simon & Schuster is currently only supporting a pilot program for the 3 library systems in NYC (also with an expiring license).

Further reading:

image by Friar's Balsam

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