Penguin returns its e-books to New York libraries

After yanking their e-book titles from libraries last year, Penguin is launching an e-book pilot program for libraries in New York.

Brian Snyder/Reuters
The pilot program for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library is scheduled to start in August.

After yanking their e-books off library shelves last fall, Penguin Books will be bringing their titles back to the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library for a one-year pilot program.

The question of how to make e-books available to libraries has been one that publishers have struggled with, attempting to make sure their e-book sales remain robust while also making the digital titles available to readers who want to borrow them from public libraries. Up until now, only two of the major publishers in the United StatesRandom House and HarperCollins – have been making their e-books available to libraries at all, and some librarians say that the pricing and circulation limits imposed by those publishers make it difficult for libraries to acquire their titles for their patrons.

Penguin's library program will be different from those at Random House and HarperCollins but comes with restrictions of its own. Penguin e-books for the two New York libraries, which will be made available through 3M, will arrive at the libraries six months after they are initially released. After a year has passed, the titles will be removed.

“We have always been committed to libraries and we are hopeful that this experiment will be successful,” Penguin CEO David Shanks said in a statement. “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.”

According to Penguin vice president of online sales and marketing Tim McCall, Penguin’s entire catalog, which is more than 15,000 books, will be made available to the libraries’ patrons through the deal.

McCall told The Wall Street Journal that libraries will most likely pay around what regular customers would for the e-books.

Penguin took their e-books out of libraries last year, citing concerns about how safe e-books and patrons’ information were on servers, McCall said.

The program is scheduled to start in August.

“Publishers haven't been doing business with libraries this year, so this is a great moment for us," Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson told the Wall Street Journal. "We're thrilled that Penguin has come back to the table.”

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