They're launching a new pilot program this fall with a couple libraries in the NYC area (NYCPL and and Brooklyn Public Library) to offer ebooks via the 3M Cloud library. The pilot launches in August, and if it goes well, Penguin will open up its e-books to libraries across the country.
The ebooks are going to be sold to libraries on a 1 year license, starting 6 months after they are published. The license will expire, and it doesn't look like Penguin's ebooks will be on the Kindle. But this is at least a slight move improvement on Penguin's last decision on library ebooks.
That 1 year expiration seems a little extreme, doesn't it? My first thought was that it was extortionate, but after I thought it through I calmed down a little and remembered that most librarians won't be as upset as I am.
I also realized that with some books it won't matter. I'm more bothered by the length of the expiration, not the fact that libraries will need to rebuy ebooks. These won't be the first expiring ebooks; the Harry Potter series came to OverDrive with a 5 year expiration attached, and I didn't complain then because needing to buy a book every 5 years is much less punitive than buying it on a yearly basis. And there are other expiring ebooks on the library market, but those don't get the attention of the big name deals like the one today.
In 5 years many technical books are outdated and need to be replaced. In 5 years many fiction books are forgotten and won't need to be kept on the shelf. But the single year renewal is worse, and it's going to make the ebook purchases difficult to justify.
On a related note Penguin's justification for it is laughable. Penguin told the Wall Street Journal that the "renewable one-year expiration date on e-books, meanwhile, is designed to mimic the natural shelf life of print books." *snicker* So all those decade old hardbacks on the shelves of my local library have to be bought each year?
There's a second story here which I'm not sure anyone has noticed yet. The 3M Cloud Library doesn't yet support the Kindle, and thanks to this deal with Penguin it probably never will.
You might recall that one of Penguin's complaints about library ebooks was the ease with which patrons could load the ebooks on to their Kindle. Penguin's official statements mentioned security, but that was a code phrase for their real fear, which was that making ebooks to easy to use would negatively affect sales on the consumer market.
It's my guess that Penguin went with 3M because 3M doesn't support the Kindle. If I'm right then one of the conditions of the contract is that 3M will never support the Kindle.
That, my dear, is a stupid move. It gives OverDrive an advantage that 3M cannot match.
image by My name's axel