At long last, Simon & Schuster entered the UK library ebook market today. They've put out a press release announcing that UK libraries can now buy and lend S&S's full catalog of nearly 14,000 ebook titles, effective immediately.
S&S was one of the last holdouts among the major US trade publishers to enter the library ebook market, and only started widespread library ebook sales in the US 6 months ago. They report today that they will soon expand into similar markets down under.
While here in the US we complain about high prices for library ebooks and limited usefulness, libraries in the UK have to contend with higher prices, nonsense like patrons having to physically go to a library to check out some ebook titles, and publishers which simply refuse to treat with UK libraries at all.
In the UK, Simon & Schuster is only the third of the 6 major US publishers to enter the library ebook market; Penguin, Hachette, and Macmillan are still holding out, while HarperCollins and Random House are already in the market. (Yes, Penguin Random House has a split policy.)
According to CILIP, Random House holds back its frontlist titles in the UK, while HarperCollins restricts libraries to 26 checkouts. And according to today's announcement, S&S will be licensing their ebooks to UK libraries under a 1 year expiring term.
A few months ago I wrote about one UK librarian who proposed that UK libraries should partner with Amazon in order to gain access to the ebooks which publishers won't sell directly. Given the problems they face today, I don't think that idea is crazy at all.