(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)
Penguin Group has suspended the availability of download audiobook titles for library purchase across all vendors, according to a message that OverDrive sent to its library partners today.
The OverDrive message says: “This change does not affect any Penguin audiobook titles currently in your library’s catalog. Your library will be able to purchase additional copies of titles released before 11/14/2011. However, titles released after this date and new releases will not be available, per instruction from the publisher.”
“What we’ve shared with our partners is all we know at this time,” said David Burleigh, a spokesperson for OverDrive. OverDrive offers about 40,000 audiobook titles in its US catalog, Burleigh said.
This latest decision comes on top of the policy shift that Penguin announced in November that ended public libraries’ access to new ebook titles from the publisher.
(On Thursday, Erica Glass, a spokesperson for Penguin, told LJ that the company had meant to include audiobooks in its November announcment, but had neglected to do so.)
In addition, it further narrows public libraries’ access to audio titles since at the end of this month BrillianceAudio will also suspend the availability of downloadable audiobook titles across all vendors, according to a policy announced January 4 by the Michigan-based company. This change also does not affect any titles currently in a library’s catalog.
A Penguin representative could not be reached for comment, and Mark Pereira, the CEO of BrillianceAudio, did not return phone messages seeking comment.
The growing inaccessibility of downloadable audio titles and other digital media is a serious issue for public libraries. According to a Patron Profiles report released this month by Library Journal, there are key patron subgroups who are more likely to own a mobile device, such as the 21-40 age group, and who also demand expansion of the full range of library services, from movies to games to ebook collections so they can better use their devices.
“Such demand will continue to grow as long as new mobile digital devices are selling rapidly, and it points to a problematic gap for libraries in terms of delivering enough to meet expectations,” the report says.
In addition, the entire audio format may be facing a sea change, as the EPUB 3 Media Overlays feature, a standard approved only in October, enables combo ebook/audiobook packages, which may become an increasingly market-efficient answer for publishers to maximize revenues, according to Bill McCoy, the executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum. Apple adopted the EPUB 3 standard in June, primarily for talking books initially.