Simon & Schuster (S&S) last week expanded their library ebook pilot to systems outside of New York City and announced that OverDrive had become a new partner in the test. The pilot was launched in April 2013, with the 3M Cloud Library and BiblioCommons supporting lending and acquisition for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, and Baker & Taylor’s (B&T) Axis 360 platform supporting acquisition and lending for the Queens Library. OverDrive, 3M, and Axis 360 all have been authorized by S&S to participate in the expansion of the pilot to 31 select public library systems throughout the United States.
“We are thrilled to partner with Simon & Schuster to add their distinguished and diverse catalog to our offerings,” Erica Lazzaro, General Counsel and Director of Publisher Services at OverDrive, said in an announcement. “These are titles that readers are asking for, and through this agreement, readers now can borrow them or purchase them through their public library.”
Pilot participants will have access to all frontlist and backlist under a one-year, one-book, one-user license.
“We wanted geographic diversity that would yield a good cross-section of data about how our books were being loaned and purchased all around the country, and to work with a variety of different kinds of libraries and systems,” Adam Rothberg, senior vice president, director of corporate communications for S&S, told LJ.
The new participants include several of the largest, highest circulating libraries in the country, such as the Boston Public Library, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the King County Library System. At press time, 15 of the 31 targeted systems had agreed to participate. A complete list of these libraries is available on LJ’s infoDOCKET.
Rothberg said that S&S has not set a timeline for evaluation on the pilot expansion, or on the initial pilot with New York City’s three systems, but that the publisher “will of course be closely following its progress.” Having expanded the program after less than a year of testing seems to indicate that the publisher is satisfied with the preliminary results.
“The S&S expansion across multiple vendors and multiple libraries is a direct result of the work 3M invested with New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Simon & Schuster to show how libraries play a vital role in connecting readers with books,” said Tom Mercer, Cloud Library marketing manager for 3M.
In a wrinkle that may prove controversial, S&S is requiring participating libraries to make their titles available for purchase through their library’s website via OverDrive’s Library BIN (Buy It Now) option, 3M’s Buy and Donate option, or through Baker & Taylor’s MyLibraryBookstore customized ecommerce sites, which offer both print books and ebooks, and give libraries a commission on sales from those sites..
Livia Bitner, vice president of technical services and product development for B&T, described the pros and cons of this approach.
“It puts another constraint on the library as far as, ‘if you want this content to be available to your patrons, you also have to sell it,’” she said. “Not a lot of libraries like being looked at as a retailer. But the other side of the coin is, if libraries can sell content, physical or digital, to their patrons, and also have that as a revenue stream, that’s a good thing too. It’s a matter of how a library feels about their position.”