In joining the other publishing benchwarmers today, Penguin pulled the rest of its catalog from Overdrive. Enjoy the Penguin press release on this occasion:
In these ever changing times, it is vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together. We care about preserving the value of our authors’ work as well as helping libraries continue to serve their communities. Our ongoing partnership with the [American Library Association] is more important than ever, and our recent talks with ALA leadership helped bring everything into focus.
Looking ahead, we are continuing to talk about our future plans for eBook and digital audiobook availability for library lending with a number of partners providing these services. Because of these discussions, as of February 10, 2012, Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of eBooks and audiobooks for purchase via Overdrive.
Physical editions of Penguin’s new and backlist titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.
This sort of sentiment begs the old saying that starts out “With friends like these…” They could have at least thrown us a bone as to whether it was Overdrive or libraries that were making them nervous about their bottom line. In looking back at Molly Raphael’s report from meeting with publishers last week, I’m guessing that it is us.
“A key issue that arose in each meeting is the degree to which “friction” may decline in the ebook lending transaction as compared to lending print books. From the publisher viewpoint, this friction provides some measure of security. Borrowing a print book from a library involves a nontrivial amount of personal work that often involves two trips—one to pick up the book and one to return it. The online availability of e-books alters this friction calculation, and publishers are concerned that the ready download-ability of library ebooks could have an adverse effect on sales.”
That last sentence gave me the twitchy eye. Perhaps it could be explained as Molly’s interpretation, but there is something about that “could have” phrase. It suggests a line of thinking for which there is no supporting empirical evidence. Has there been any research, a study, or other inquiry that shows a correlation between an increase in library eBook lending and a drop in sales? There is raw data that exists showing how many eBook checkouts in a library region and there are sales figures showing the sales for that area. Has anyone analyzed these numbers? Who is doing the market research for these people?
Can their presumption be proven? Has it already been proven?
All I know is that limiting your market is not always the best way to expand it. If you want people to read, then you make it as widely available as you can. The placement of obstacles just stymies the average modern consumer, a person whose demand for instant gratification will just have them move on to the next thing.
This is just a nice reminder that publishers have shifted to selling a product, not a culture. I guess the latter is up to us to provide.
(h/t: Librarian in Black)