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Penguin pulls out of OverDrive, stops ebook sales to libraries

Penguin Group has announced it will no longer provide ebooks to OverDrive, effective immediately. With the termination of the relationship between the publisher and the U.S. digital content distributor, public libraries are effectively cut off from acquiring and lending out Penguin ebooks and e-audiobooks.

The Digital Shift reports:

Penguin is negotiating a continuance agreementÂť with OverDrive, which will allow libraries that have Penguin ebooks in their catalog to continue to have access to those titles.

But since the company does not have a contract with 3M, the still fledgling but growing competitor to OverDrive, the practical effect of the decision will be to shut down public library access to additional Penguin ebook titles (not physical titles) for the immediate future.

The news is not entirely unexpected. In November of last year, Penguin Group stopped selling frontlist ebook titles to OverDrive and other digital distribution platforms, and stopped offering new e-audiobooks to library distributors last month.

Penguin is not the only major publisher to demonstrate an unwillingness to provide digital content to libraries. Even as circulation numbers for ebooks grow at libraries, multinational publishers have tightened the reins on providing ebooks and e-audiobooks to these institutions. In March, HarperCollins capped library lending of its e-titles at 26 loans. Random House held off providing digital content to libraries until spring of last year (the availability of Canadian backlisted titles has been notoriously limited). Simon & Schuster and MacMillan have so far refused to provide e-titles to libraries. Now, HarperCollins remains the only large multinational publisher to provide digital titles to OverDrive.

In each of these cases, publishers have cited concerns over piracy and the potential for a loss of consumer sales. Canadian publishers such as House of Anansi Press, Douglas & McIntyre, and Orca Books do presently deal with the distributor.

This latest development with Penguin strengthens the argument for a Canadian-made solution to e-content distribution, championed by groups such as the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, the Association of Canadian Publishers, and the Canadian Publishers Council (of which Penguin Canada, Simon & Schuster Canada, HarperCollins Canada, and Random House of Canada are members).

[This post was updated Feb. 10.]