September 21, 2014

Penguin Lifts Library Ebook Purchase Embargo

Penguin logoPenguin Group today announced that it will be changing the terms on its library ebook lending program, and on Tuesday, April 2, will begin allowing libraries to purchase and lend ebook titles the day that hardcover editions are released, according to The Associated Press. Previously, Penguin had placed a six month embargo on new ebooks, requiring libraries to wait half a year before purchasing.

“I am pleased to learn that Penguin’s pilot is confirming what research suggests and librarians believe: There is more to be gained than lost when publishers work with libraries,” American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan said in a statement to the AP. “We are encouraged by Penguin’s willingness to experiment, make adjustments and move forward with libraries and our millions of readers.”

It has been a busy year for Penguin on the ebook lending front. In February 2012, the publisher terminated its contract with OverDrive. Four months later, Penguin announced a pilot project with the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the 3M’s new Cloud Library ebook platform. The pilot officially launched on October 1, and by November 13, Penguin had expanded the program, allowing all of 3M’s Cloud Library customers to purchase Penguin ebook titles. A few days later, the publisher announced that its ebook content would also be available on Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform.

With the purchase embargo lifted, Penguin’s other lending terms remain the same. Libraries can purchase titles at prices comparable to retail, and circulate each purchased copy to one patron at a time for one year. After one year, the titles will expire, regardless of checkout frequency. Penguin’s Director of Online Sales and Marketing Tim McCall confirmed to the AP that prices would not be raised as a result of the change to the embargo period.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

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


  1. Patty McClune says:

    How about OverDrive? Are they playing nice with them yet? I sure hope they can come to an agreement. The HarperCollins model works. I don’t have a problem with a limited number of checkouts before libraries need to repurchase. Just please get in the game!

    • Alison Hewett says:

      I agree! Think metered checkout model fine i just want to be able to put Penguin authors in front of my students.

  2. bittercakes says:

    Wait are we supposed to be grateful to Penguin? I think not. I don’t want to be in the game if the rules are all weighted towards the publishers.

    The metered checkout model is not FINE (only 1 year?), it’s horrible, a way to wring money annually from libraries.

    • rss1956 says:

      Couldn’r agree more! I can buy a regular print version, which can only go to one person at a time, but I will still have the book at the end of the year. Why on earth is this good for libraries in a time when budgets are continually shrinking? Why do I want to have to re-buy what I’ve already bought?

    • Matt Enis Matt Enis says:

      I agree that it’s still a problematic situation. Even if a book is popular, libraries will still be paying full retail price to loan it out a maximum of 26 times before having to buy it again (26 loans at 2 weeks apiece. It’s really a much less favorable version of the Harper Collins model) If they continue along these lines, its easy to imagine a future where libraries always have Penguin’s current ebook bestsellers but hardly any of their backlist titles.

      That said, I’m encouraged by any sort of progress on ebooks by the big six. I think they’re starting to realize that libraries aren’t their competitors here, and could actually be a big help marketing new ebook titles (the same way libraries have always done for print books).

  3. Hi Matt, Saw some talk about penguin here and I couldn’t agree more. What’s really juicy is that the “Hummingbird” update is coming. This means yet another change in the Big G’s algothrithms (yay – uh no).

    With being able to control what 80% of the net sees and hears, as well as set the ranking criteria at will for the SERPS, I think Google has a good thing going here.


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