Penguin Pulls eBooks From Public Libraries Dropping it Down to 1 of the Big 6 Publishers Playing Nice With Libraries

image by Andy Woodworth

Yesterday the big news online was Penguin Groups decision to withhold new titles from OverDrive, meaning new Penguin titles are no longer available for library patrons to check out. Additionally Penguin has requested that OverDrive no longer allow library patrons to check out existing Penguin titles on Kindle devices and apps.

Penguin’s Official Statement emphasis added by me

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.

OverDrive’s Official Statement (which of course came after the Penguin statement because OverDrive always responses late, sorry guys but you do) again emphasis added by me.

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.

All existing Penguin eBook titles in your library’s catalog are still available and additional copies can be added.

Honestly I just don’t understand this. As Kate Sheehan puts in on Twitter

You don’t have to work with libraries, but if you’re not going to, at least give us a reason that isn’t insulting to our intelligence.

Penguin doesn’t state which “security” issues they are concerned about, but I think it is safe to assume it has something to do with piracy. Apparently public libraries are full of pirates? Sorry I’m goning to have to agree with Wilda Williams on this one 

Given how cumbersome downloading library ebooks sometimes can be, real hackers aren’t going to bother with libraries.

And really Penguin? You’re gunning for public libraries when there are much bigger fish to fry?

OK, I really want to write this post without it turning into a rant. Let me attempt to do so.

We are assuming the security issue is piracy because that seems to be the main concern with ebooks. First I did a quick check on a couple of popular torrent sites  and I can confirm that The Help and a number of other ebooks from the homepage of the Penguin website are available to download from both. If Penguin is attempting to keep their ebooks from being pirated the genie is already out of the bottle on that one. I can also confirm that many titles from Simon & Schuster and MacMillan are available on torrent sites. Based on this I think we can conclude that allowing library patrons to read your ebooks on their device does not lead to pirating since neither MacMillan or S&S allow libraries access to their ebooks. Second, we know that most people don’t pirate because they are nefarious criminals walking around with handlebar mustaches tying damsels in distress to railroad tracks,they pirate because a reasonable legal option isn’t available. Now we can debate all day about what constitutes a “reasonable legal option” but since we already know that DRM does not work wouldn’t it be better to stop beating that dead horse, especially at the expense of a public institution like public libraries? After all we’re on your side, why aren’t you on ours?

The Big Six

Now let’s talk about the Big Six. If you’re not familiar that would be Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillian, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster.

  • Both MacMillion and Simon & Schuster have refused to make their ebooks available to public libraries since day one.
  • Hachette Book Group stopped offering its frontlist ebook titles to libraries in July.
  • HarperCollins – last year HC announced their 26 check out policy.
  • Penguin – right now new titles aren’t available while they work out security concerns
  • Random House – happily works with libraries. Yay Random House!

I encourage you to share your opinion with them respecrivelly regarding this decision. I also encourage you to share their contact information with your patrons who voice concerns about the unavailabiilty of their titles

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  1. Excuse my supreme optimism, but could the security concern be over patron records, /the/ concern our profession has been taking so seriously this last month or so?

    Again, supreme optimism…
    (your reason sounds much more credible)



    1. Kyle I would LOVE it if you are right. But publishers don’t seem to care much about privacy or patron or customer rights.


  2. A guy can dream, I suppose. A little transparency would be nice in this case – or at least a direct reply from their library liaisons.

    Keep up the good writing/reporting!


    1. It would be great if that’s what they meant, Kyle. So so so great. But then why be vague and why not continue to allow new titles in epub form?

      I like your dream, though!


  3. Richard Kaplan · ·

    Why would Penguin (as opposed to the libraries themselves) be more concerned than patrons are about privacy?


    1. I think it is unlikely that they would be.


  4. I think it has been postulated elsewhere but the “security concerns” is really Amazon Prime’s lending policy. Basically, if you pay Amazon $80 a year, you get a free loan every so often. Penguin didn’t like it and (supposedly) asked Amazon to stop offering their titles this way. Amazon didn’t and now we get this.

    Libraries are really just in the crossfire between a (expletive deleted)ing match between two companies.


    1. James I’ve heard that speculation as well, and it may well be correct. Unfortunately Penguin is harming libraries far more than they are harming Amazon with this move.


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