Penguin’s recent decision to pilot a book lending program with the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library (after removing their eBook titles from libraries last year after a dispute with OverDrive) does not come without a stipulation reminiscent of the movie industry’s response to online streaming–the Wall Street Journal reports that there will be a six-month delay in the availability of newly released eBooks. Additionally, Penguin has imposed a one-year lending limit, after which time libraries would have to repurchase expired eBooks. The other two major publishers already in the library lending system have similar tactics that may be a challenge to libraries hoping to expand their e-book selections. HarperCollins’ eBooks can be lent a total of 26 times before they expire, and Random House has taken to tripling its library eBook rates.
Despite publishers’ worries about piracy and declining sales, however, the results of a Pew study released today reveal that 58% of library patrons do not even know whether their local library lends eBooks, and only 12% have used the library eBook lending system in the past year. More here.
Could this study allay agent and publisher fears that public lending libraries decrease eBook sales by turning the eBook consumer into an eLibrary patron instead? Does it hinder the argument that eLibraries are a great way to capture new readers, in the same way that public libraries have always been seen as venues for book discovery? The answer to those questions–and the digital strategy decisions that publishers like Penguin will have to make based on those answers–can only be answered with more data.