Angry Penguins

It seems that the newest line in that sandy area between big publishers and Amazon—or big publishers and OverDrive, to put a finer point on it, or big publishers and libraries, if you want to feel really paranoid—has been drawn. The artist this time in Penguin Group USA, which has announced that it’s pulling its new ebook titles from libraries, and suspending Kindle lending for all its books, citing security issues with OverDrive, leading software for library ebooks and Amazon’s prime vendor. Apparently titles stay archived on a user’s Kindle until the WiFi is reactivated, although this seems to be more a glitch than an opportunity for widespread piracy—I defer to Library Journal’s Digital Shift, which parses the issues pretty thoroughly.

In Penguin’s statement, media relations manager Erica Glass says:

Penguin has been a long-time supporter of libraries with both physical and digital editions of our books. We have always placed a high value on the role that libraries can play in connecting our authors with our readers. However, due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners. Penguin’s aim is to always connect writers and readers, and with that goal in mind, we remain committed to working closely with our business partners and the library community to forge a distribution model that is secure and viable. In the meantime, we want to assure you that physical editions of our new titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.

Bigger-picture conspiracists see this as a backlash to Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, where Amazon Prime members are able to borrow a book a month from the Kindle store as part of their perks. The big six publishers all opted out, but are concerned that titles of theirs are still part of the program. One would hope that public library lending would be a different issue, with a stronger tradition, altogether. But ebook lending is a prickly affair in the first place, and there are obviously a lot of kinks to be worked out. In the meantime, Penguin joins Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillian, and Simon & Schuster in its questioning of the status quo—or monkey wrench-throwing, depending on where you stand—and a lot of folks with brand new Kindle Fires might want to check on their library hold status.


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