Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
More good news on the library e-lending front: Penguin has plans to expand its library ebook lending pilot program to libraries in both Los Angeles and Cleveland. The pilot program, which was announced last summer and began this fall, has been working in conjunction with the 3M Cloud Library, (the service used to distribute its ebook titles to libraries), the New York Public Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library.
This time around, Penguin is working with a different distributor, Baker & Taylor, the world’s largest distributor of physical and digital books. In an email from a Penguin spokesperson, the new Baker & Taylor partnership was made to “see how we can best work with libraries on ebooks.” At this time Penguin has continued (and expanded) its offerings through the 3M Cloud Library as well.
The expanded pilot with the Los Angeles and Cleveland libraries will work the same as the original: Penguin sells its ebooks to libraries for a term of one year (offered six months after its release date), during which time the ebook can be loaned, one user at a time, for an unlimited number of loans. Prices are reportedly in line with retail prices.
The announcement should be welcome news to librarians and library patrons alike, given the somewhat tense relationships between libraries and publishers over the last year because of conflicts with ebook lending. Back in June, after the initial pilot program announcement, American Library Association (ALA) President Molly Raphael said:
“I applaud Penguin’s decision today to re-start e-book sales to libraries so that we may again meet our mutual goals of connecting authors and readers. This has been at the core of ALA’s outreach to Penguin and other major publishers over the past six months, and I am thrilled they are willing to try new business models in collaboration with libraries. This is an important development in our evolving relationship with publishers and intermediaries.”
Tim McCall, Penguin’s vice president for online sales and marketing, told the Times, “‘We are learning every month, but I think we have a model that works.'”
It will be interesting to see how the conflicting Penguin and Random House ebook lending policies (Random House sells ebooks to libraries at a huge mark-up, and offer them for sale to libraries at the same time that the retail copy is put on sale), play out in the long-term, now that they plan to merge next year.