Penguin and Amazon are both big players - and now Penguin has made it plain that when it comes to e-books, and Kindle in particular, it's limiting library circulation of its titles.The reason is couched in terms of security, but is it a response to Amazon's underhand tactics for loaning Kindle titles?
In a move that has shocked the staff and users of public libraries in the US, Penguin Group USA has decided to stop making new e-books available to libraries in digital form, and has disallowed all public library lending of its books for Amazon Kindle.
Penguin's announcement about the fact that no new titles will be issued as e-books was reported on Library Journal’s Digital Shift blog:
“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".
The ability to borrow Kindle books from local libraries in the US was announced in April and actually introduced at the end of September. It is managed by OverDrive, the main e-book distributor for libraries in the US. Last week Penguin notified OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks and OverDrive was instructed meanwhile to disable “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks. So while libraries can continue to loan existing e-book titles for Barnes & Noble and Sony devices and other non-Kindle formats, users of Kindle devices and apps will suddenly find the number and range of titles available to the greatly diminished.
Other major publishers, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster do not license ebooks to public libraries and many publishers were angered by Amazon's disregard of their wishes when it launched its Kindle Owners' Lending Library this month. None of the six largest publishers in the US wanted to participate in this scheme, which essentially amounts to giving away free e-books to a limit of one per month to subscribers to the Amazon Prime Program who are also owners of Kindle devices including the new Kindle Fire. In order to be able to have an attractive selection of titles available, in cases where Amazon hadn't negotiated participation for a fixed fee per title it simply purchased extra copies as if they were for resale but then included them in the library scheme.
Although no Penguin titles were included, it could well be that this tactic, which served to emphasise Amazon's willingness to take advantage of its power in the marketplace, has back fired to the detriment of public libraries, their Kindle-owning patrons, and, unless Penguin changes its mind about forthcoming times, all their e-book patrons.
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