We Need to Talk About eBooks

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Nook eBook Tablet


February was a bad month for eBooks and public libraries. Despite the thrilling announcement that J.K. Rowling’s complete Harry Potter series would be available to libraries starting April 30th; a number of unexpected developments have made patron access to eBooks even more challenging.

You may not know this, but libraries can’t buy eBook titles from bookstores or directly from publishers, but instead must buy from third-party vendors. While the increased popularity of eBooks has a number of new vendors breaking into the market, the industry leader is our provider, OverDrive. Publishers, particularly what is known as the “Big Six” (HarperCollins, Hatchette, MacMillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster) have tightly controlled and limited library access to eBooks and other digital content.

Only Random House allows for libraries to have unrestricted access to their eBook catalog, but just this month significantly increased their pricing. Many titles that were $15 last month are now $45; some titles are as much as $120.

Last year HarperCollins famously implemented a 26-circ limit on each copy of a title, forcing libraries to repurchase copies of titles on their 27th checkout if libraries wanted to continue to offer that copy to their patrons.

Penguin abruptly announced that it would join the ranks of the remaining Big Six publishers:  Hatchette, MacMillan and Simon & Schuster and not sell copies of eBooks to libraries, with a twist. Penguin would now require ‘that Penguin eBooKs loaded for reading on Kindle devices will need to be downloaded to a computer then transferred to the device over USB. For Library patrons, this means Penguin eBooks will no longer be available for over-the-air deliver to Kindle devices or to Kindle apps.”

If you would like to see a greater availability of e-books in libraries, please contact the publishers directly. For your convenience, their contact information is below.

Macmillan Publishing
75 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-7521

Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 698-7000

Hachette Book Group
466 Lexington Avenue #131
New York, NY 10017
(212) 364-1100

Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-2000

Random House

1745 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

(212) 782-9000


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Posted by: Amanda

Amanda is the Electronic Services Librarian for Marin County Free Library.

This is an official blog for the Marin County Free Library.

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nice job

we want to use this on our website if that's ok with you.  thanks, Melinda Boulder Public Library


Yup...I just had to transfer ebooks to my Kindle via USB...a bit convoluted. :-(

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