There’s an interesting but improbable story going around today about some behind the scenes machinations that may have affected the library ebook situation here in the US. According to Extreme Tech, the real reason that Penguin dropped library ebooks was pressure from B&N.
Publishers, however, aren’t the only faction concerned about the impact of digital lending. Major bookseller Barnes & Noble has a history of imposing restrictions of its own over what it sees as preferential treatment. In October, when DC Comics announced an exclusive deal to offer e-book versions of popular comics via Kindle, B&N retaliated by pulling 100 DC graphic novels from store shelves. There are rumors that Penguin’s retreat from the e-book market was caused by Barnes & Noble taking a similar stand as it did with DC and threatening to pull Penguin titles off store shelves if the company didn’t capitulate.
I don’t believe it.
Even assuming B&N had the guts to try it, I don’t think they would be stupid enough. This isn’t a case of refusing to carry a few dozen titles from Amazon nor is it the same as when B&N pulled those 100 graphic novels.
Penguin is simply too big of a source of books. If B&N made this threat, when they tried to follow through they would have realized that dropping Penguin would hurt them almost as much as it would Penguin.What’s more, Penguin is owned by Pearson, a major media company. A threat made against Penguin would have a ripple effect across the many components of Pearson. It would sour working relationships across I don’t know how many market segments.
I don’t think B&N would even try to make such a threat.
On the other hand, I could see Barnes & Noble trying to talk Penguin into pulling back from the library ebook market; it might seem like a good idea from B&N’s viewpoint. But threaten? Never.
So what do you think? Could the Extreme Tech rumor be true?