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Penguin to launch ebook lending pilot with libraries in New York and Brooklyn

Four months after cutting digital ties with libraries, Penguin has greenlighted a year-long pilot project that will see its ebooks loaned out at two New York library systems.

Penguin, which pulled its digital titles from OverDrive’s ebook lending platform in February over security concerns, has reached an agreement with New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library to distribute digital titles through 3M’s cloud-based system. The Wall Street Journal has sketched out the details:

The pilot, crafted to protect ebook sales, will delay the release of ebooks to the libraries for six months after the titles go on sale in stores and online. Each library ebook will expire after a year.

Tim McCall, vice president of online sales and marketing at Penguin, said the company will make all of its titles available ” some 15,000 ebooks. He declined to discuss specific prices, but said ebooks will be priced for libraries in the same range as prices that retail consumers pay.

He said the six-month delay is intended to prevent library e-books from undercutting other sales. The renewable one-year expiration date on e-books, meanwhile, is designed to mimic the natural shelf life of print books.

The WSJ goes on to note that the Queens Library hopes to sign on to the agreement once the municipal budget is passed, and that should the pilot prove successful at New York and Brooklyn — two of the largest library systems in the U.S. — a similar program could likely roll-out nation-wide.

Today’s news leaves Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette as the only Big Six publishers that don’t distribute ebooks to libraries. Among the remaining multinationals, Random House sells ebooks to the library market at significantly higher prices and HarperCollins enforces a circulation cap of 26 checkouts.

There’s no word yet on a similar ebook lending deal between Penguin and library systems in Canada, though Canadian libraries have been hard at work with publishers to find a Canadian-made licensing agreement.