Friday, June 22, 2012
Partnering With 3M, Penguin To Make New eBooks Available Again at NYPL and BPL In One-Year Pilot Program
More than four months after pulling frontlist digital titles from libraries, Penguin will make them available again in August at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library in a one-year pilot program with renewable terms. And after parting ways with OverDrive, Penguin will work with 3M on this program which, if successful, could be rolled out to libraries across the country. 3M signed an agreement with the two libraries only this past Monday.
Under the terms of the new program, the NYPL and BPL will be able to lend more than 15,000 Penguin frontlist titles with a caveat: there will be a six-month delay after the books' initial publication date. Penguin vp, online sales and marketing Tim McCall told the WSJ the delay "is intended to prevent library e-books from undercutting other sales" while the one-year expiration date "is designed to mimic the natural shelf life of print books." McCall also reiterated that Penguin stopped selling ebooks to libraries because of "concerns over the security of ebooks on servers and the security of private information of libraries and of library users."
In a follow-up interview with us Thursday morning, McCall said Penguin came to terms with 3M after being "in conversation with many vendors for quite some time. It took a long time for things to gel, but eventually we got down to a pilot that seemed to work for us." And while the pilot program is for one year with renewable terms, McCall stressed that more libraries could be added to the program within that time period: "scalability could happen sooner or it could happen later. We're open to all things. It is a pilot, so we'll assess it regularly."
As to the six-month delay, McCall said "to be perfectly honest, we just picked it" as the time frame, and "like every feature of the pilot it's open to consideration." And pricing under the pilot program with the NYPL and BPL "is in the same range as ebooks we would charge to a consumer," with titles lendable on a one-to-one ratio (i.e. only one user has access to one title at any given time) as before.
It bears repeating that Overdrive's implementation of their Kindle library lending--in which library patrons are sent to a commercial, third-party retailer, in this case Amazon-- are viewed by multiple publishers to be a direct violation of OverDrive's contracts. Penguin's move to a new distributor, 3M, would appear to underscore these past concerns. (3M does not yet make library titles available for Kindle, but they are in ongoing talks with Amazon.) 3M's status with Amazon "wasn't a consideration for the pilot," McCall said, "but if Amazon chooses to open platform to public library lending then we would be happy to have our books lendable and available on the Kindle."
The pilot program seems to hearken back to NYPL president Anthony Marx's speech at the AAP annual general meeting in March in which he suggested "walling off" bestselling titles since it wasn't the NYPL's "primary focus," though McCall said the pilot program details did not stem from Marx's earlier comments.
Penguin ceo David Shanks said in a statement: "We have always been committed to libraries and we are hopeful that this experiment will be successful. Our partnership with 3M and the New York Public Library is a first step toward understanding the best means of supporting the growing digital missions of our great library institutions and their sincere desire to bring writers to new readers. Penguin has a long history of broadening access to good quality literature beginning with our founder Allen Lane, who popularized paperbacks in the 1930s. Bringing writers to readers is what we do."3M Cloud Library global business manager Matt Tempelis added: "We are delighted to be collaborating with Penguin and the New York Public Library in order to find an eBook lending model that works for all sides. The 3M team is dedicated to bringing the best content to our library partners in ways that work for both the libraries and publishers. This is a great step in that direction." Marx commented further that the library system is "delighted to partner with Penguin and 3M in this historic agreement, which is a powerful first step toward libraries and publishers working together to build a model that meets the needs of our ever-changing society.