May 19, 2024

Penguin Ebook Pilot Test Expands Beyond NYC


Update: This story has been updated regarding the confirmed date of the program’s expansion to other libraries.

On October 1, the 3M Cloud Library, the New York Public Library (NYPL), the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and publisher Penguin Books officially launched a pilot program that allows patrons of the two systems to check out a selection of Penguin ebook titles six months after initial publication. NYPL will also offer additional titles from the 3M cloud library, the company said in an announcement. In addition, the announcement noted that Penguin content will be available to all 3M cloud libraries in the coming months. On November 13, Tom Mercer, digital marketing manager for the 3M Cloud Library, confirmed to that Penguin content was now available to all libraries using the 3M Cloud system.

The pilot was first announced in June, four months after Penguin terminated its contract with OverDrive and, as a result, effectively stopped selling new ebook content to libraries.

In a recent interview, Christopher Platt, NYPL director of collections and circulation operations, said that the initial launch of the test would be relatively quiet on NYPL’s end.

“As we would with any new distributor, we’ll start kind of small and make sure it’s working the way we want it to, and developing in the direction that we want it to develop…we don’t want to do a huge marketing push, only because we’d get 50,000 people interested in a few hundred titles, and we would have holds lists a mile long,” he explained.

The details remain the same: Penguin will make ebooks available for the libraries to purchase six months after initial publication on an annually renewable basis. Patrons will be able to access and check out these ebooks offsite using a 3M Cloud Library app on devices including iPhones, iPads, Nooks, and Android devices.

After the initial announcement, Anthony Marx, NYPL president, called the partnership “a powerful first step toward libraries and publishers working together to build a model that meets the needs of our ever-changing society. As ebooks grow in popularity, libraries nationwide have faced diminishing access to that content. As such, the library is determined to work together with publishers and authors to craft a fair way to ensure ebooks are available to libraries and their users.”

Then-president of the American Library Association Molly Raphael also praised the plan, saying “I applaud Penguin’s decision today to re-start e-book sales to libraries so that we may again meet our mutual goals of connecting authors and readers. This has been at the core of ALA’s outreach to Penguin and other major publishers over the past six months, and I am thrilled they are willing to try new business models in collaboration with libraries. This is an important development in our evolving relationship with publishers and intermediaries… I hope we’ll be hearing more announcements like this very soon.”

If not precisely ‘very soon’ thereafter, Macmillan did confirm in September that the company is also working on a pilot project that will test lending of its ebook titles at libraries.

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Matt Enis (; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.