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Simon & Schuster Announces eBook Pilot Program in NYC

14029418_8bcbabab41[1]One of the last remaining holdouts among the Big Six Five publishers announced today that they were launching a new program to test the idea of selling ebooks to public libraries.

Simon & Schuster is starting a one year pilot in which they plan to "sell" ebooks to  the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and the Queens Library. These 3 libraries, which serve a combined population of over 8.3 million, will have the option of buying from the publishing company’s complete catalog. The ebook titles will be sold under a 1 year license, after which they will expire and need to be repurchased.

As part of the pilot the libraries are also going to be enabling patrons to buy S&S ebooks via the library website. It’s not clear exactly how this will occur nor has this option been added to the website yet, but the press release does note that the libraries will receive a commission on the ebook sales they generate.

Unlike the Penguin pilot which launched last Fall (and later expanded to all libraries), this pilot program will be supported by not one but 2 library ebook vendors. The 3M Cloud Library will be supplying S&S ebooks to the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Library, and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 digital library platform will be providing ebooks to Queens Library.

IMO, these 2 vendors were chosen in part because they already had existing relationships with the libraries in question. Also, I think they were chosen because they are not OverDrive. This vendor is growing increasingly unpopular of late, and they have been frozen out of the pilot programs that Penguin, Macmillan, and S&S have launched.

Simon & Schuster was the last remaining holdout among the major US publishers, having sold a single ebook to libraries in 2012. They are joined in their efforts to minimize library ebook sales by Hachette and Random House, each of which have significantly increased library ebook prices in 2012, and Macmillan, which is currently trialing a small pilot with 1200 backlist titles. HarperCollins, as you probably know, enacted a 26 checkout limit in 2011. And Penguin launched a pilot program last Fall that was later expanded to all libraries.

image by B.D.’s world

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Ken April 15, 2013 um 11:17 am

Out of curiosity…why is Overdrive becoming unpopular? I’m definitely all for competition but just not sure why Overdrive would be locked out. If there are too many different vendors used for library ebooks then it will become too confusing and people won’t use them. Or is that the idea?

Nate Hoffelder April 15, 2013 um 11:22 am

I was thinking it was OD’s support for the Kindle, but your guess is almost as likely.

kurt April 15, 2013 um 1:31 pm

because OD sucks – from the end user standpoint anyway
not sure a publisher cares about that though

very slow, clunky and limited function

Xendula April 20, 2013 um 12:06 pm

I agree that OD sucks since their site refresh, which slowed browsing to a crawl and eliminated much of the info a user used to see, but 3M is a joke. They don’t even notify you when a book on your hold list becomes available.
Of course, it makes sense for those publishers to go with the system with the worst user experience.

I still don’t understand why Kindle support is a problem (the whole using their own servers is a deflection), other than that the majority of ereaders used are Kindle, and the publishers want to make sure that their books are available to the lowest number of patrons.

Fbone April 15, 2013 um 2:36 pm

Overdrive is also quadrupling their administration fees.

Alison April 17, 2013 um 10:42 am

I think Nate’s right about the publishers not wanting to provide Kindle support. Neither the 3M nor the B&T ebook libraries have Kindle versions available.

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