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Updated: Penguin Ebooks Pulled From OverDrive

Well now this is truly turning into a Monday.

Overdrive just announced that they’ve been forced to restrict access to ebooks supplied by Penguin. i asked and they don’t have any more details to share. And I’m still waiting to hear back from Penguin.

Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks.   In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle”  functionality for all Penguin eBooks. We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier. We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible.

And so the assault on readers continues. First there was Macmillan and S&S, who never allowed library ebooks at all. And then there was HarperCollins, who decided to limit ebooks to 26 checkouts and a funeral (here, here). And now we have Penguin, except we don’t know what is going on.

Penguin just can’t put a foot right lately, can they? This is also the publisher behind Book Country’s new self-pub scam. This is a new program where you pay penguin for the privilege of selling you r ebooks in the major ebookstores (never mind that you can do it yourself).

But I have to say that the block on the Kindle lending  worries me the most. Temporarily blocking sales of new titles is one thing; it’s a minor frustration to librarians but it won’t impact users much. But blocking a particular service is different. Penguin just got the attention of anyone trying to read a Penguin  ebook on a Kindle, and not in a good way.

The thing about most readers is that we don’t really know who published what book. We know the author, title, and genre, but publishers don’t market themselves well enough for readers to really be aware of them. But now there’s going to be a large group of Kindle owners whose first introduction to Penguin will be broken library ebooks. That could turn out to be an exceptionally stupid maneuver on the part of Penguin.

Update: Penguin has responded on The Digital Shift:

Penguin has been a long-time supporter of libraries with both physical and digital editions of our books.  We have always placed a high value on the role that libraries can play in connecting our authors with our readers. However, due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners. Penguin’s aim is to always connect writers and readers, and with that goal in mind, we remain committed to working closely with our business partners and the library community to forge a distribution model that is secure and viable. In the meantime, we want to assure you that physical editions of our new titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.

That is pure and utter spin. It means nothing and says nothing about what they really want.

Here’s the thing. If they’re really concerned about security then they will have to kill their ebooks entirely. OverDrive uses the exact  same DRM as on all the major ebookstores.  If OverDrive  is not secure enough then no one is. And if the Kindle ebooks aren’t secure enough then why does Penguin still sell ebooks in the Kindle Store?


image by timetrax23

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Sherri November 21, 2011 um 4:46 pm

Penguin was the last of the Agency 6 to come to terms with Amazon; it took well over a month before their ebooks were available again on Kindle after the agency stuff. I’ve also found them to be the worst on pricing; random midlist books priced at $18 and things like that.

Chris November 21, 2011 um 5:14 pm

And they are added to the list of do not buy from. There are plenty of publishers who support libraries and aren’t afraid of ebooks. Too bad they are just hurting their authors. So be it.

Fbone November 21, 2011 um 5:38 pm

You forgot to mention Hachette. They also don’t permit their frontlist titles on Overdrive.

Richard Adin November 21, 2011 um 6:02 pm

I suspect that the problem is Amazon. My guess is that if the lending were being done soley by the public libraries Penguin would not have pulled the books from Overdrive. We lose sight of the fact that Amazon is positioning itself as more than just a reseller of ebooks; it has started its own publishing company in direct competition with Penguin and it started the Prime lending without approval from authors or publishers. My guess is this is a reaction directly related to Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder November 21, 2011 um 6:07 pm

True, but if I were a publisher I’d love Amazon’s system. it gives so many opportunities to turn the reader into a buyer.

Richard Adin November 22, 2011 um 4:40 am

No, it gives so many opportunities to turn an Amazon customer into even more of an Amazon customer. A person who reads 1 book every 2 months isn’t suddenly going to read 2 books every month because of library lending. More importantly, a person who gets most of their books from the library will not suddenly become a purchaser of books because of the library lending. If being a library book borrower would translate into becoming a retail book buyer, we would have seen that phenomenon already, and we haven’t.

fjtorres November 22, 2011 um 7:09 am

You’re right there.

Penguin is solely interested in squeezing every last drop of blood out of customers and library reads are "Clearly" lost sales in *their* worldview. (Riiighht!)

And just as obviously, they had no problem with these "lost" sales when they came from the (apparently) irrelevant epub and pdf markets. But once they started "losing" sales from the much larger Kindle market, they had to act before the "lost" sales started impacting their bottom line.
(Never mind that the pitiful number of licenses available are shared across all formats so and "lost" sales were spread across all formats.)

Those people are so divorced from reality it’s not even funny.

Chris November 24, 2011 um 2:43 am

Sorry, but that’s a generalization. I borrow books and buy them if I really like them. Or buy titles by the same author. Last time I didn’t finish an ebook lent from library on Kindle, I purchased it.

And this library lending discussion always avoids the important role that libraries play. It’s in a vacuum. This is not a move that totally or only hurt Amazon. It hurts everyone, and most importantly patrons. It boggles the mind, and I don’t have patience with these publishers who care so little about their authors and libraries that I’m simply not supporting them anymore myself.

Elizabeth November 21, 2011 um 6:12 pm

This is getting ridiculous and seriously hampering libraries and readers. If anyone knows the best way to send Penguin and the other non-participating publishers protest letters/emails please speak up.

Marina November 21, 2011 um 6:30 pm

What’s wrong with Penguin? Their recently announced self publishing program is decried as an expensive scam; Penguin e-books disappeared from the Canadian Kindle site earlier this year, only to reappear 6 months later with all titles showing a substantial price increase; and now this Overdrive bun fight.

Sooo, lets recap. New Penguin authors pay far more than necessary with a dubious self publishing product. Existing Penguin authors lose money when their books are yanked out of markets for extended periods over management squabbles. Third party suppliers and now libraries are seriously annoyed and inconvenienced by these increasing dumb moves. And readers are paying more for Penguin e-books than their paper equivalents. Does that sound about right? Did I miss anything?

I wonder what kind of bonus Penguin executives expect this year.

AlanW November 21, 2011 um 7:09 pm

I suspect that adding Kindle library lending has drastically reduced their ebook sales, because Penguin’s ebook prices are too high and so readers go to the library instead.

cookie November 21, 2011 um 7:29 pm

The book publishing industry is doomed. As Penguin is probably finding out, their content is being pirated left and right, and it makes all the more bitter when it is done from a library rental.

Why do we complain just about the Chinese stealing intellectual property when it is rampant here in the United States as well?

Common Sense November 21, 2011 um 11:16 pm

Actually, my first introduction to Penguin in the ebook world (I worked in libraries for more than 10 years) was when they implemented the agency model and the prices of half of my wishlist books went up, some significantly.

I had already decided not to buy ebooks from the Big 6, I just can’t afford them, but was happy to read some of them again when Kindles got library access. So now I won’t read their books anymore, but that’s fine, because I have thousands of books on my Kindle. I don’t purchase physical books anymore either, unless as a rare gift, I have tons of them already and find that I only read on my Kindle. My son is the only one without a Kindle and I get all of his books at the library book sale for $5/bag.

So if it isn’t on sale at Amazon for $3.99 or less, and isn’t at the library as an ebook, then I won’t be buying or reading Penguin’s books, or any of the other Big 6 publishers either. Too bad for them.

Common Sense November 21, 2011 um 11:17 pm

One more thought… what a great way to push people into downloading pirated ebooks instead.

Jonathan November 21, 2011 um 11:32 pm

I was definitely frustrated when the Overdrive hold I’d been waiting for was finally available yesterday and then I couldn’t load it to my Kindle.

Scott Nicholson November 22, 2011 um 11:26 am

Funny thing about Paradigm Shifts is they are half over before you notice the change. Traditional publishers just do not want to deal with reality. They have lost their monopoly on distribution and content creation. The faster they pull back, the wider the avenue for indie authors and small presses to come in and meet those abandoned and exploited readers. And I think readers will be pleasantly surprised to see the new generation of writers, not artificially propped up through monopoly, can compete on the page where it matters most.


Peter November 22, 2011 um 11:41 am

This is what happens when you try to compete with suppliers.

People won’t realize these are Penguin books- they’ll just see that Ipad, Nook and Kobo owners get a better selection.

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nonya December 26, 2011 um 11:50 pm

First of all, I do not approve of nor condone piracy. But I can see how the extreme overpricing of ebooks, along with regional restrictions and now restricting library loans of ebooks is driving piracy. I realize when publishing an ebook that editing and proofreading are necessary, and that authors need to be paid for their work. But the fact remains that the cost of publishing an ebook is substantially less thsn the cost of a DTB. That cost savings is not being passed on to consumers as it should be. And consumers know it, can see that publishers are trying to prop up sales of DTBs at the expense of ebook readers.

In addition, consider the following:
With a DTB you can loan it to a friend or friends, sell it, or give it away. Since you are not allowed to (legally) do these things with an ebook, why should readers have to pay the same or higher prices for ebooks?

I think tha Penguin and the other major publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their failure to listen to what consumers want: Quality ebooks at fair prices without the DRM and restrictions.

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