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Major Publishers Pull Plug on New E-Books For Lending Libraries

Plus, Random House jacks up its e-book prices.


The popularity of e-books in the Boise Public Library System has been nothing short of extraordinary. In January alone, more than 6,682 e-books were checked out of the Boise system--an approximate 300 percent jump from a year ago.

"We have more than 3,500 adult titles and 2,000 youth titles in our current e-book library," said Chrisanne Brown, acquisitions and technical services manager at the BPL.

But recent changes from a few of the nation's largest publishers will soon hinder the public's access to e-books from lending libraries in Boise and across the United States.

Penguin Books, which includes authors Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell in its nest, has terminated its contract with OverDrive, the electronic lending platform used in libraries across the nation. Penguin titles already purchased remain available, but no additional or new titles can be purchased.

Additionally, Brilliance Audio has suspended availability of new or additional copies for its titles, including books by Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz, through OverDrive.

"Brilliance is one of the big audiobook producers," said Brown.

Making matters worse, Random House, the world's largest English-language publisher, jacked up its prices for libraries as much as 300 percent, effective March 1.

"In January, we paid $27 for Unbroken," said Brown, referring to the No. 1 bestseller from Laura Hillenbrand. "Today, that same title costs us $81."

Libraries must pay for each e-book copy and only one copy is leant out at a time. If a library wants multiple copies, it pays the full price to the publisher again.

"I can tell you, for example, that we have 32 holds for John Grisham's bestseller The Litigators," said Brown, meaning each of the library's five copies are currently in circulation while 32 more patrons await their chance to read the e-book.

"I'm presuming that all of this is based on [publishers'] desires to have more people purchase their e-books," said Brown.

But Brown was unaware of any security issues with the OverDrive platform.

The sudden change in policy from publishers caught librarians off guard and is scheduled to be the subject of conversation at the Wednesday, March 7, meeting of the library's Board of Trustees.

"The good news is that the Harry Potter titles in e-book and e-audio formats will be released in April," said Brown. "And [author] J.K. Rowling only charged libraries $22.95 for each copy of a title."