Historical eBook Availability and Pricing

On November 11, 2011Librarian By Day, Bobbie Newman summarized how each of the "Big Six" publishing houses was working with (or not working with) public libraries:

Now let’s talk about the Big Six. If you’re not familiar that would be Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster.

  • Both MacMillan and Simon & Schuster have refused to make their ebooks available to public libraries since day one.
  • Hachette Book Group stopped offering its frontlist ebook titles to libraries in July (2011).
  • HarperCollins – last year (2010) HC announced their 26 check out policy.
  • Penguin – right now new titles aren’t available while they work out security concerns
  •  Random House – ... works with libraries ...

1/31/12Brilliance Audio suspended sales of eAudiobooks for library lending.

2/09/12: Penguin has now terminated its contract with OverDrive (the vendor we work with to loan eBooks). We are allowed to keep access to titles already paid for, but Kindle owners may no longer download these titles wirelessly.

3/01/12: Random House, while continuing to "work with" libraries, has just tripled the price it is charging us.

9/13/12: Hachette has announced that it will raise the price of those eBooks that are available to libraries by an average of 220%.

Take a look at this chart comparing Library Pricing v. Consumer Pricing for both print and eBooks. Many thanks to Douglas County Libraries, who looked at some of the current bestselling titles. As you can see, not only do libraries pay much more for eBooks but we are not even offered some of the most popular titles.

May 2013: According to the Urban Libraries Council's Briefing Paper, "Libraries, Publishers and Public Access to E-Books," as of May 2013:

  • "None of the six largest publishers are selling or licensing e-books to public libraries in the same way they do print editions.
  • Three (Hachette, Macmillan, and Random House) have adopted pricing policies that make e-books more expensive than print editions.**
  • (Two) others (Penguin USA and Simon & Schuster) still continue to not make e-books available to all libraries and are only now piloting programs that would make them available." (The sixth, HarperCollins, makes all titles available for libraries but with restrictions. Once each title is checked out 26 times it 'expires' and individual libraries need to 'purchase' it again for further access.)

Items in parentheses and emphasis mine.

**Note that, because of Hachette's and Macmillan's terms of service to consortia, and because Selco denied our request to enroll in the OverDrive Advantage program, neither Hachette nor Macmillan titles are available to us. IN SUMMARY: From the Big 6 publishers, we can only offer you eBooks from HarperCollins (with a 26-checkout limit) and Random House (at inflated pricing).

The fact that all of the "Big 6" publishers are making at least some titles available to at least some libraries, with inflated pricing and/or other restrictions, is an 'improvement' over where we were a few months ago. Click here for more recent history on eBook availability and pricing.

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