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PRH Expands UK Library eBook Pilot to Schools, Sabotages it With Restrictions

8249677117_ed0d5db885_bPenguin Random House announced a new partnership on Tuesday with RM Books, an edtech company that distributes ebooks and other digital content to schools in the UK for both library and classroom use.

The publisher is  making its children’s and Young Adult titles available so that teachers and school librarians can integrate PRH titles into their lesson plans, add them to existing ebook libraries, or assign titles to individuals or groups of students.

The teachers will be able to track how long students spend reading the books, and the pupils can add their own annotations, including notes, web links, videos or images.

Today’s announcement follows only a couple days after PRH announced that it was making its full UK catalog available to libraries and schools in the UK (OverDrive, to name one vendor, serves both schools and libraries).

The expansion comes as part of a year-long trial. Close to 28,000 titles, including works published by PRH in Australia and New Zealand, are being offered under a license which lasts either two years or until a copy has been checked out 36 times. Similar terms are offered in the US, only without the hard cap of 36 loans.

I know what you’re thinking right now, and no, I didn’t accidentally find an article from 2009 or 2010. It really took Penguin Random House until December 2015 to decide that maybe they might want to sell ebooks to libraries.

But they’re not to sure they like the idea, so they’ve added several restrictions, including a limitation of Epub-only. The Bookseller quotes Tim Godfray, the CEO of the UK Bookseller Association, as expressing gratitude to PRH for throwing sand in the gears.

"So we are pleased that PRH have introduced licensing ‘frictions’ with the aim of providing a fair balance between the interests of the library and the bookseller.  Especially important to us under the proposed PRH licensing terms is that libraries will not be able to obtain an e-book for free lending until three months have elapsed from the date of publication, and that, moreover, only EPUB formats can be downloaded by the borrower," he told The Bookseller. "It is good to see also that the loan of an e-book can only be made to one customer at a time, and that after two years a new licence has to be taken out."

Given that Amazon accounts for anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of the UK trade ebook market, that restriction is blatantly aimed at Amazon with the goal of limiting what Kindle readers can do with their preferred platform.

Sure, Amazon is itself limiting library ebook support to Kindle users in the US, making the PRH restriction little more than a symbolic act.

It has no meaning other than to make a show, but even though that is the case I still think it’s sad to see the head of a bookseller trade group laud a move that will line the pockets of booksellers at the expense of the reading public and to the detriment of literacy.

It shows his true priorities, doesn’t it?

image by Mary(n_n)West

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