July 21, 2024

A Guide to Publishers in the Library Ebook Market

Last updated July 6

The ebook library lending policies of the Big Six publishers garner most of the attention, because public libraries regard access to best-selling titles as a critical service.

However, it may help to scan the landscape not only for the “Big Six” trade publishers but also for the “fairly large” and the “not so big” and the “further afield” in order to get a fuller sense of publishers’ participation in the overall library marketplace.

The list is meant to be a helpful, not comprehensive, resource. The focus is whether or not publishers are in the library ebook marketplace. It is not meant to be a listing of all possible ways to acquire ebooks for a library collection. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Contact Michael Kelley at mkelley@mediasourceinc.com.

The Big Seven

Random House Inc.

Background Acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998, Random House’s publishing groups include the Crown Publishing Group, the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Random House Children’s Books, and the Random House Publishing Group. Random House operates its eponymous imprint and some 200 others such as Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Dell, Pantheon, and Doubleday. Its roster includes many best-selling authors, such as Stieg Larsson, Dan Brown, Elmore Leonard, and John Grisham. The company is headquartered in New York, and is the world’s largest trade book publisher, according to Hoovers.

On ebooks and audio Random House’s commitment to the ebook library market has been consistent, with its complete frontlist and backlist available for library lending as well as digital audio titles. However, the company recently announced that it will be raising the prices it charges distributors.

See also Random House Reaffirms Commitment to Library Ebook Lending While Raising Prices to Wholesalers

See also Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Price for Random House Ebooks Rises as Much as 300 Percent

HarperCollins Publishers

Background Headquartered in New York, the company is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The firm’s publishing groups include HarperCollins General Books, HarperCollins Children’s Book Group, and HarperCollins UK. HarperCollins has numerous imprints and has released more than 8,700 ebooks and 50 enchanced ebooks, according to its U.S. website.

On ebooks and audio Like Random House, HarperCollins has remained committed to the digital library market, making its complete ebook and audio portfolio available for lending. However, the company instituted a policy in February 2011 which says that if an ebook circulates more than 26 times, a library must renew its license to the title in order to maintain access. The New York Public Library has 5,120 HarperCollins titles in its e-collection as of February 2012, and has not yet bumped up against this cap, even as its overall ebook circulation rose from 208,603 in 2010 to 560,022 in 2011.

See also One Year Later, HarperCollins Sticking to 26-Loan Cap, and Some Librarians Rethink Opposition


Background Macmillan is a group of publishing companies in the United States held by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany. The American publishers include Farrar Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, W.H. Freeman and Worth Publishers, Palgrave Macmillan, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and Macmillan Higher Education. Among its popular titles are The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline.

On ebooks and audio Macmillan does not make its ebooks available for library lending, with one exception: Palgrave Macmillan offers 10,000 scholarly ebooks in 11 subject collections via its platform, Palgrave Connect. Macmillan also has, for some time, made it digital audio titles available for library lending.

See also Simon & Schuster, Macmillan Express Concerns About Library Ebook Lending After ‘Positive’ Talks with ALA

Penguin Group USA

Background Penguin Group (USA), which includes among its titles The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy, is an affiliate of London-based Penguin Group, which in turn is a division of Pearson PLC. Among its imprints are Viking, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books, Gotham Books, Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne. For children’s publishing, the imprints include Dial Books, Dutton, Grosset & Dunlap, Philomel, Puffin, Speak, Firebird, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Razorbill, Viking, and Frederick Warne.

On ebooks and audio Penguin began limiting its ebooks and digital audio titles available for library lending in November 2011. It terminated its contract with OverDrive in February 2012, but Penguin titles already in a library’s catalog at that time should remain available.

On June 21, Penguin began testing an ebook Pilot program through 3M at the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries. The titles are acquired for one year, with renewal terms; they will not be available to libraries until six months after initial publication. If the pilot is successful, Penguin expects to extend the program to other libraries in about a year.

See also Penguin Group Terminating Its Contract With OverDrive; Penguin, 3M Test Ebook Pilot at NYPL, BPL


Background Simon & Schuster is a division of CBS Corporation. The Adult Publishing Group includes a number of publishing units, in addition to the main Simon & Schuster imprint. Among these imprints are Atria, Free Press, Gallery Books, Pocket Books, and Scribner. The Children’s Publishing group includes Aladdin Paperbacks, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Little Simon, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon Pulse, and Simon Spotlight.

On ebooks and audio Simon & Schuster does not make its ebooks available for library lending, but its digital audio titles are available.

Hachette Book Group

Background Hachette Book Group is headquartered in New York and owned by Hachette Livre, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lagardère. The company has numerous publishing groups but most of the ebooks and digital audiobooks produced by Hachette Digital are based primarily on books published by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books), Little, Brown & Company, Orbit, Yen Press, Little Brown For Young Readers, FaithWords, and Center Street. Hachette best sellers have included books by Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), and Jon Stewart and the Daily Show writers (Earth: The Book).

On ebooks and audio Hachette does not make its front list ebooks available for library lending, but its backlist up until publication dates of April 2010 are accessible. Digital audiobooks are widely available. The company would only say (as of February 24) that it is in “active discussions with the library community” and “is running a pilot program which will soon make our ebooks available to millions of patrons.”

See also Hachette Takes a Close Look at Risks and Benefits of Library Ebook Lending

Scholastic Corporation

Background Although not commonly included in discussions of the Big Six, because it focuses solely on the juvenile market, Scholastic is big. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games big. It is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, with about $2 billion in annual revenue and 9,500 employees worldwide. It has 18 imprints: Arthur A. Levine Books, Cartwheel Books, Chicken House, Graphix, Little Scholastic, Little Shepherd Books, Michael di Capua Books, Orchard Books, Point, PUSH, Scholastic en espanol, Scholastic Licensed Publishing, Scholastic Nonfiction, Scholastic Paperbacks, Scholastic Press, Scholastic Reference, The Blue Sky Press, and Klutz.

On ebooks and audio Scholastic does not have a distribution deal in place for its ebooks, either with OverDrive or another company, although a spokesperson said the company is “exploring all of the various opportunities for distribution of our ebooks in libraries.” A recent listing from USA Today of best-selling books had three volumes from The Hunger Games in the top three spots. Although Scholastic is the U.S. publisher for the Harry Potter books, Pottermore, the Harry Potter ebooks site, entered into an exclusive worldwide ebook and digital audiobook distribution agreement with OverDrive for public and school libraries on February 27, 2012.

See also OverDrive to Distribute Harry Potter Ebooks


The Next Tier (in alphabetical order)

Most discussion of ebook availability in libraries stops after the Big Six and public libraries, but pushing down into the next tier of fairly large publishers and beyond, as well as into the academic/scholarly sphere, shows a bit more promise.


Background ABC-CLIO, based in Santa Barbara, California, focuses on curriculum and reference materials, as well as professional development for librarians in secondary education, higher education, and public libraries.

On ebooks The company’s ebook platform houses over 7,000 titles, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and guides from ABC-CLIO, Greenwood Press, Libraries Unlimited, and Praeger. The company’s ebooks are also distributed through  ebook vendors, and titles are available through unlimited simultaneous user access.

De Gruyter

Background De Gruyter offers ebooks in the humanities and natural sciences to libraries via its integrated online platform De Gruyter Online as well as through various partners.

On ebooks The ebooks are available as individual titles or in various packages (2011 price list) and can be used simultaneously without a time limit by an unlimited number of library users.


Background Elsevier, headquartered in Amsterdam, employs more than 7,000 people and is the largest publisher of academic journals (and frequently in the news because of its journal business), but also is a significant monograph publisher as well.

On ebooks The company offers libraries over 15,000 ebooks via SciVerse ScienceDirect, which has perpetual pick and choose with no limits on simultaneous access and volume discount where applicable (as well as purchase by single chapter, e-series subscription, and other options). Elsevier electronic content is also available through library aggregators using several purchase options (perpetual access, patron-driven acquisition, short-term lending). OCLC announced February 24 that the full text from SciVerse ScienceDirect journals and e-books is available to users of OCLC’s WorldCat Local and OCLC WorldShare Management Services. Metadata from the SciVerse ScienceDirect will also be exposed in WorldCat.org


Background Gale, based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is a part of Cengage Learning. Its publishing imprints include reference brands such as Macmillan Reference USA, Charles Scribner’s Sons and Primary Source Media. Gale also serves the K-12 market with its U·X·L, Greenhaven Press, Lucent Books, KidHaven Press and Sleeping Bear Press imprints.

On ebooks Ebooks from Gale and its publishing partners are available to libraries through the company’s Gale Virtual Reference Library platform.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Background Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is owned by private-equity concerns, including hedge fund Paulson & Co. Its imprints and subsidiaries include Heinemann, Holt McDougal , Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School Publishers , Riverside Publishing , Great Source, Rigby, Saxon, Steck-Vaughn, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Harcourt Children’s Books, Clarion Books, Mariner Books, Graphia and Sandpiper.

On ebooks and audio Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is based in Boston, makes ebooks of its front and back list available for library lending through OverDrive and Baker&Taylor. It does not have a significant digital audio business.

Hyperion Books

Hyperion did not respond to questions about its ebook policy.

John Wiley & Sons

Background Wiley, based in Hoboken, New Jersey, is a professional/trade publisher with imprints including For Dummies, Frommer’s, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, CliffsNotes, Webster’s New World, J.K. Lasser, Jossey-Bass, Pfeiffer, and Sybex.

On ebooks and audio Wiley makes both front list and backlist ebooks available to libraries as well as digital audiobooks. The company has deals with various distributors, but it also launched its own subscription-based platform, Wiley Online Library, in 2010 for its scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly (STMS) business (Wiley-Blackwell). The collection includes about 10,000 ebooks, 1,500 journals, multi-volume reference works, and databases. It offers perpetual access rights with one-time purchase; unlimited, concurrent user access; and no DRM (pricing details).

McGraw-Hill Companies

McGraw-Hill Professional

Background McGraw-Hill Professional focuses on medical, technical, and business content, decided in 2011 to expand direct relationships with library customers.

On ebooks MHP ebooks are available to libraries through subscriptions made directly with libraries. The MHeBook Library subscriptions are available from one to four years. Flexible subscriptions include either the entire library, one or more of the four collections making up the library (Business & Management, Student Study Aids, Medical & Nursing, and Engineering & Computing), or one or more of the 28 subject clusters making up the collections. It offers unlimited concurrent usage for all patrons, and new ebooks are pushed into the clusters each quarter, making additional new books available to patrons at no additional cost through the life of the subscription.

See also New Ebook Platform From McGraw-Hill Professional Offers Unlimited Concurrent Usage

Oxford University Press

On ebooks Oxford Scholarship Online offers access to the full-text of almost 7,000 academic monographs in nineteen subject areas, covering the humanities, social sciences, medicine and law. On University Press Scholarship Online over 7,500+ titles are available in 22 subject areas, from six university presses. Libraries can also subscribe to Oxford Reference Online.

University Press Scholarship Online and Oxford Reference as platforms do not have the technical ability to “lend” ebooks. This is a technical restriction (they don’t have the capability yet) as opposed to a policy decision that OUP won’t lend ebooks via its own platform. The company said that its license agreements for these products do permit libraries to share limited portions of content, via secure means.

Oxford also makes its content available via most aggregated platforms, including content from OSO/UPSO, though it doesn’t control or influence how its partner presses work with aggregators, so individual arrangements may vary.

Perseus Books Group

Background The New York-based Perseus Books Group is owned by the private equity fund Perseus LLC. Member publishing programs include Avalon Travel, Basic Books, Basic Civitas, Da Capo, Lifelong Books, Running Press, Seal Press, Vanguard Press and Westview Press, as well as partnerships with PublicAffairs and Nation Books, and joint ventures with Weinstein Books and The Daily Beast.

On ebooks and audio Perseus makes its front and backlist ebooks available for library lending. They sell audio rights, meaning library availability is not the company’s decision.

Sage Publishing

On ebooks Sage’s 1400 titles are mainly available through aggregators. The price list for libraries is here.


Background Based in Naperville, Illinois, Sourcebooks, in addition to its main imprint, includes Sourcebooks Casablanca, Sourcebooks Fire, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Sourcebooks Landmark, Sourcebooks MediaFusion, Sphinx Publishing, and Cumberland House,

On ebooks Sourcebook makes its ebooks available on the one book-one user model through Overdrive and Ingram.


On ebooks Springer has over 49,000 ebooks in 12 subject collections, mainly in six publishing fields: science, technology, medicine, business, transport and architecture. Perpetual access and unlimited concurrent usage are offered.

Taylor & Francis Group

Background Based in London, Taylor & Francis Group is a subsidiary of  Informa plc. The company publishes scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works in the humanities, social sciences, science and technology.

On ebooks According to The Charleston Advisor, ebooks are published under several imprints and are released simultaneously with the print edition and number about 24,000 titles. The packages can be purchased outright for perpetual access or subscribed to annually. The access is limited to one and five users, respectively, per title for perpetual and subscription access and can be used for interlibrary loans. The focus of the packages is on social sciences, humanities, STM, and law. Beginning February 24, Taylor & Francis is providing metadata for all of their journals and books in all OCLC products and services.

WIT Press

Background WIT Press, based in Ashurst, UK, has been in the library market for about 60 years. Its publishing focus is engineering and scientific research. According to the company, it offers an integrated service that combines reference databases, subscription management, online journals, and books, with content discoverable via commercial search engines as well as through their databases and ebooks available in multiple formats.

On ebooks Ebook versions of WIT Press titles are available from EBSCO, ebrary, EBL and Dawsonera.

W.W. Norton & Company

Background W.W. Norton publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, college textbooks, cookbooks, art books and professional books. According to the company’s website, its authors include economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, physicist Richard Feynman, and historians Peter Gay, Jonathan Spence, Christopher Lasch, and George F. Kennan as welll as  Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry; Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller Guns, Germs, and Steel; Judy Rogers’s The Zuni Café CookbookPatrick O’Brian’s naval adventures and others.  The company is wholly owned by its employees and it also owns book publisher Countryman Press and its Berkshire House Publishers, and serves as a distributor for about 20 smaller publishers, such as Fantagraphics Books, Atlas & Co., and Persea Books, according to Hoovers.

On ebooks W.W. Norton does not make its ebooks available for library lending, but a company spokesperson said it is exploring all options and trying to find the right model.

Publishing Partners of Distributors, Aggregators, and Others

The list of publishers that participate in the library ebook market can quickly become very long once beyond the most prominent firms. A quick way to see if a publisher makes ebooks available is to consult the list of publishing partners that many of the larger distributors, aggregators, and others make available online. Here are links to a few of these lists. A number of notable companies such as Library Ideas, Baker & Taylor, Ebooks on EBSCOhost, 3M, and others do no apparently have a publicly available list of publishing partners online.


Credo Reference

Dawson Books


Gale Cengage Learning

Ingram’s MyiLibrary



ProQuest’s ebrary

Project MUSE

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Contact Michael Kelley at mkelley@mediasourceinc.com

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Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.


  1. Thanks, Michael. This was an excellent service for those of us keeping our eye on eBook lending for public libraries.

  2. Might you include EBSCO and its acquisition of NetLibrary?

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      We are trying to keep the focus of the list on publishers and their position in the library market. I was unable to find an online list of EBSCO’s publishing partners, which reportedly numbers about 700. We may build the list out in the future to profile various aggregator/distributor platforms.

    • Nigel Atkinson says:

      I think what Mark is saying is that you have listed ebook distributors here and not publishing partners in your final section: Publishing Partners of Distributors, Aggregators, and Others. You have missed two of the largest: netlibrary and EBL (eBook Library). It seems odd – and I agree with Mark – that you should list a partial list of distributors and then say no to when a simple suggestion to make it more comprehensive is offered up. None of the above listed in that section are publishers (your objection to listing netlibrary) except Cengage and maybe Ovid by association. The others are exactly what you say they are and the same as EBL and netlibrary. Inconsistent.

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      Hi Nigel, I’m happy to include Ebsco in the list at the end (and EBL as well), but as I mentioned in the introductory note for that section I was unable to find a publicly available list of publishing partners online. If you know of one, please let me know. I requested one from Ebsco but received no response. I believe they have about 700 publishing partners. I thought Mark was requesting listing Ebsco among the publishers. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  3. My patrons are very fond of nonfiction titles from F+W Media and Workman Publishing. F+W publishes a lot of cookbooks, and Workman puts out all the Storey’s guides. The mysteries from Untreed and sci fi from Wildside Press also circ very well.

    Also, don’t forget the self-publishing authors like Barbara Freethy, who is in continuously high demand.

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      I will add those the next time I update the list. Thanks for the heads up. Per previous commenter’s post, a link to EBL’s publishing partners was provided and it has been added to list at end. Information about W.W. Norton has also been added.

  4. How do I get the childrens book;The Greatest White Shark Story Ever Told,My Friend Michael a true story about the Real Jaws by Kenneth W. Grimshaw, in school libraries? The book has been #17 on Kindle ebooks. S.G.

  5. Any chance you’ll be updating this for the new year? A lot has changed in 2012 and I’d love to see such a nice summary of the state of the library lending ebook.

  6. Any thoughts of updating this for 2014? Thanks.

  7. Is it still up to date today ? it is 2014. Im going to buy e-ink reader soon if they create something equipped with bigger screen.

  8. Alison Hewett says:

    It would be wonderful if these publishers could be interviewed and have them publicly state why they don’t allow school libraries to purchase their ebooks.

    I’m so frustrated at not being able to purchase Scholastic or Simon & Schuster for my school library even though they sell the titles to public libraries.

    • Sounds like discrimination of school libraries, is it legal? Anyway not nice! Ever tried to ask them via social media? Sometimes it helps and starts a process of rethinking in big companies. Especialy if your tweet get’s shared.