As reported on Twitter and on Dear Author, Penguin has removed lending capabilites from its digital library for the Kindle. In other words, no digital lending for Kindle – and, per a statement at Library Journal, no new books will be available for digital lending, either. Overdrive's statement on their site reads in part:
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.
That now makes four out of six publishers who do not allow lending of digital titles: Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. I had originally optimistically remembered two, but alas I was wrong.
Anyone want to take bets as to when the last two will follow suit?
What a terrible decision. I've spent a lot of time this year speaking at librarian conferences, including the national convention of the American Library Association and local conferences of the Connecticut Librarian Association. In every case, there were sessions devoted to working out how to serve the patrons who want to borrow digital materials, and how to best serve communities with digital literature, media, and internet service — and several more protesting the prices of digital lending enforced by publishers. (Link via DA). I heard one librarian rant, and I agree with him, though I wish I could remember his name, that part of the issue is that two for-profit enterprises are negotiating business with a large network of not-for-profit libraries, both trying to make as much as possible from each other with libraries in the middle. Meanwhile librarians are desperately trying to figure out the hourly-changing world of digital lending, because, to put it simply, that's what patrons want.
What I don't understand is publishers who think that progress is made by recinding lending options and excluding the growing digital marketplace. Penguin's statement alludes to piracy concerns but like Jane at DA, I think that's hogwash.
Jessica Banks' theory is that it's due to the textbook market: “Penguin and Macmillan have a huge share of the college book market. If they're lending, they won't sell as many copies.”
Perhaps Kate Rados said it best: “11/21/11: When the penguin became an ostrich.”
Digital reading isn't going anywhere. If anything, it continues to grow – at a very spiffy pace, too. So yes, this is a perfect time to reject a segment of the ebook reading public: those who borrow digital books from libraries.
Holy crap in a sidecar, you cannot make up lunacy this frustrating. I need to read a romance. STAT.
OK, wait, here's some good news: students at eight Newark, New Jersey, elementary schools will receive a set of ten books each through FirstBook and a grant from Facebook and philanthropist Anne Feeley:
A pilot dubbed “My Very Own Library” will combine Facebook money plus a $125,000 donation from philanthropist Anne Feeley to give about 5,200 students at eight Newark elementary schools a set of 10 books each.
The nonprofit First Book will deliver the books in three installments over the course of the year, according to the Foundation for Newark's Future, an entity set up to distribute the Facebook funds.
The program, administered by the nonprofit NJ After 3, will promote literacy among children by jump-starting an at-home library.
Literacy and reading in any form is something to be celebrated, and I'm incredibly dispirited that four major publishers can't see that, but Facebook can.
ETA: Per today's Publisher's Lunch (login required, though it's free):
Though OverDrive had promised in April that patrons' “confidential information will be protected,” in implementation their program is an engine for turning library users into Amazon customers. The expectation was that OverDrive would serve Kindle-compatible files, but instead they send patrons directly to Amazon's site for processing. Some publishers believe this violates their contracts with both OverDrive and Amazon….
Despite those contractual and “security” issues, some publishers we spoke to this fall had concluded that, under the first sale doctrine, it would be hard to achieve any remedy on ebooks already purchased by libraries. Little did they know that they could “instruct” OverDrive to stop serving Kindle versions and that OverDrive would comply. If this holds, you might see other publishers issuing similar instructions soon.
Oh, boy. Funny enough, I was emailed twice today asking for recommendations for digital readers as gifts. One person wanted one without any ability to connect to any store from the device, as she keeps a strict book budget and only wants to purchase and transfer to her device from her computer. Another wanted to know about library lending. I'm going to have to guess that Kindle will have no library lending options from the big six at all within a matter of days. Phooey.
STILL MORE ETA: Today's Digital Shift report from the American Library Association includes condemnation from ALA President-Elect Maureen Sullivan and information from librarians about how this affects them, and their patrons:
Maureen Sullivan, the president-elect of ALA, said that Penguin’s decision is a loss for readers.
“If Penguin has an issue with Amazon, we ask that they deal with Amazon directly and not hold libraries hostage to a conflict of business models.
“It’s kind of a fuzzy situation,” said Michael Colford, the director of resource services at Boston Public Library. “We don’t pay extra for a book that has a Kindle edition, but we do make decisions on what to purchase if there is a Kindle edition available,” he said. Colford said this really comes into play with holds since the library can see if a preponderance of holds are for one particular format and then order accordingly.
“Up until yesterday we hadn’t been paying attention to who’s publishing the book, but now we may have to,” he said.
Todd Feinman, the chairman of the Oregon Digital Library Consortium (ODLC) , which has 22 library systems in its network (over 100 locations), said more complaints were likely forthcoming.
“I think that the whole paradigm is shifting and I imagine that there will be more of this over time,” he said. “I don’t know where this is going. These things are usually a surprise to us. It’s just hard to say what a publisher is going to do next,” he said.
Feinman said libraries could always boycott if necessary. ODLC has refused to license any ebooks from HarperCollins to protest that publisher’s February decision to limit library loans to 26 circulations.