Public Libraries, Corporate Publishers and eBooks

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shutterstock_94359418Last week Simon & Schuster signed a deal with 3M and the NYPL to distribute eBooks into libraries. Now all of the “Big6″ corporate publishers have some type of agreement selling eBooks into public libraries.

Libraries are indispensable. Publishers agree on this. Eventually the business models will all align and every publisher will make available their entire list of digital to libraries.

This is good news for libraries. It is movement. Libraries would like every title available at a low cost.  Publishers fear cannibalization.  Both sides have compelling arguments and data to back up their claims. But for now, this is a step forward. It is more open that a few years ago. It will be much more open later this year.

Sarah Weinman at Pub Lunch and Jeremy Greenfield at DBW both have excellent recaps of the policies of corporate publishers and libraries.

A quick time-line of events re: libraries, corporate publishers and Amazon:

  • 2001 (NOV) – HarperCollins signs deal with Overdrive to distribute eBooks.
  • 2008 (MAR) – Random House signs with Overdrive. 6,500 titles.
  • 2010 (APR) – Hachette stops selling any new titles to libraries. Backlist remains.
  • 2011 (FEB) – HarperCollins institutes the 26-check out expiration.
  • 2011 (MAR) – Amazon establishes it’s own lending library.
  • 2012 (FEB) – Penguin cancels Overdrive contract.
  • 2012 (MAR) – Random House hikes price of books by 3x.
  • 2012 (JUN) – Penguin and 3M in test with NYPL and Brooklyn Public.
  • 2012 (SEP) – Hachette raises prices by 2x.
  • 2012 (OCT) – Penguin test successful, rolled out to others.
  • 2012 (OCT) – Amazon extends lending library to UK, Germany and France.
  • 2013 (MAR) – Macmillan makes 1,200 titles available.
  • 2013 (MAY) – S&S announces ALL titles available in test with 3M and Axis360.

Over the past decade and especially in the last two years, corporate publishers have continued to move ahead and add books and then take away access or raise prices.  But overall, it is progress.

Currently, Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster allow access to all of their titles (although S&S is in a test with three libraries). Hachette has most of their backlist available, as does Penguin. Macmillan allows a select list of titles. There are also some key publishers not yet in. Included in this group are Scholastic and Norton.

Amazon created their own lending library although many publishers didn’t want to participate. Those that had Agency agreements (the Corporate 6) said “no” because that would have meant setting retail prices at zero. But publishers under Wholesale agreements (all other publishers including Scholastic and Norton), Amazon sets the price.  So those books were set at “free” but Amazon paid publishers on the DLP. Calvin Reid at PW covered this at the onset in NOV 2011.

With the DOJ throwing out Agency and allowing pricing to be with the retailers, will Amazon include more titles in their lending library?

With S&S testing library lending, will they find the right system to sell eBooks to all libraries? Penguin was all in and then pulled back. But they returned with a test and it was successful so they rolled it out to all.

Will there be other models to sell eBooks into libraries?

 

(image from Shutterstock)

Jack W Perry

About Jack W Perry

Jack W Perry is VP-Sales, Print & Ebook for Highlights for Children. Prior to that, Perry ran his own consulting firm, 38enso, for five years. He consulted for a variety of publishers, tech start-ups, Fortune 500 companies and independent authors. Previously he was an executive at Random House, Scholastic and Sourcebooks. All opinions in this column are his own. Twitter - @38enso

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3 thoughts on “Public Libraries, Corporate Publishers and eBooks

  1. Axis and 3M are still very minor players in the overall e-book market. Until the publishers are willing to deal with OverDrive, all of this “movement” is merely symbolic and has no real effect on most libraries.

    • No doubt OverDrive controls the market and has been distributing eBooks to libraries much longer than others. 3M and BT Axis have only been in the game for a few years and are adding libraries and gaining market share. Plus, if the tests are successful and publishers want full distribution, I am sure they will
      come to agreement with OverDrive. It is a process and will develop over time.

  2. No doubt OverDrive controls the market and has been distributing eBooks to libraries much longer than others. But who knows what will happen in a few years? 3M and B&T Axis are adding libraries and gaining market share. Plus, if the tests are successful and publishers want full distribution, I am sure they will come to agreement with OverDrive. It is a process and will develop over time.

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