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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Penguin Tentatively Returns eBooks to Libraries, but Not Kindles

By launching a pilot program to bring their publications back to libraries through OverDrive competitor 3M, Penguin has taken a step back toward serving its customers. At least so long as those customers don’t like reading on their Kindle. One of the notable shortcomings of the new system, and likely one reason that it is so appealing to Penguin, is that it completely lacks Kindle compatibility at this time.

The ongoing disputes between Amazon and the Big 6 publishers have provided any number of inconveniences for readers over the years now, but the library system has been hit particularly hard. While demand for eBooks, especially those compatible with the Kindle platform, has been rising at an ever increasing rate, publishers have been doing their best to make sure that eBook borrowing is as inconvenient as possible when it is available at all.

If that sounds horribly over the top, it is. Just not in the way you might think. The appeal of the 3M system for publishers, when it last made big news in library lending, was that it would force customers to both be in the library building to load their eBook and to wait in line as kiosks to get their chance. The OverDrive system, which often allows borrowers to download their titles over WiFi, allows for too little friction. Penguin, along with others, is concerned that if they don’t find some way to make using an eReader less simple and hassle-free then it will result in lost sales.

The argument is simple enough to follow, but seems to demonstrate how thoroughly these publishers understand their customers. By this logic, the only reason that book stores are able to stay in business is that libraries took too much of a drive or had longer lines.

To be fair, 3M has gotten better since those planning stages. Users are now able to browse and borrow from wherever they like, it seems, and there is even a fair selection available. The originally mandatory kiosks have been changed into promotional tools within the library itself and the program now includes branded eReaders meant specifically to be lent out to library patrons. It’s possible this explains why Penguin is only tentatively on board with the whole program even now, as well as why they will only be offering titles that are at least six months old.

Supposedly there will eventually be some degree of Kindle compatibility with the 3M lending network. Reportedly Amazon broke off earlier talks with a request that they resume in June, so at least things are still being discussed. It is unlikely that 3M will allow things to go the same way that OverDrive did, however, in shuffling their users through an Amazon store page. Given the customer base that Amazon already has, as well as the internal Kindle Owners’ Lending Library being used as a promotional tool for the Amazon Prime subscription service, this might become something that takes quite a while to come to terms over. Kindle owners probably shouldn’t be holding their breath waiting for Penguin, 3M, or Amazon to come around.

Amazon Kindle Borrowing Scares Penguin Away From Helping Libraries

Obviously there has often been a bit of strain in the relationship between publishers and libraries, much of the time with arguments along the same lines as those currently used against media piracy, but eBooks have been an especially touchy issue.  To illustrate how serious they are about disliking eBooks in general and the Kindle in particular, with regard to lending at least, Penguin has chosen to abandon eBook availability in libraries entirely for the time being.  This is hardly the first time a major publisher or even Penguin in particular has reacted publicly against eBook lending, but it could be the first time there was anything resembling a sane rationale behind it.

At the moment, the vast majority of libraries in the US offer any eBooks they have available to borrow using the OverDrive service.  As essentially the only major platform that libraries have the option of using, pulling out of OverDrive means pulling out of libraries.  Unfortunately, publishers see the partnership that this service has developed with Amazon to provide Kindle compatibility as being damaging.  Currently when a Kindle owner wants to borrow a library book, they pass through Amazon’s web page.  This allows the retailer an opportunity to offer suggestions or advertisements and thereby potentially monetize library lending.  There is ample evidence that publishers really dislike Amazon and the Kindle platform in general already, and this extra bit of opportunity is even more of a problem than the already distasteful fact that libraries let people read without spending money.

Sadly, this could spur some of the competition for OverDrive into a more prominent position.  3M, for example, is working on ways to take a part of that market for themselves with a new service by giving publishers more of what they want in terms of control.  What do publishers want?  Mostly they want things complicated.  An oft-expressed complaint about eBook lending is that it is too fluid.  Borrowers should be required, they maintain, to be at the library when they borrow at the very least and even that is a minimum standard.  As much friction as possible is desired so that eBooks do not become more convenient than paper books.  The 3M example is particularly relevant since they are discussing offering kiosks that users would be required to use any time they want to borrow an eBook.  While it defeats the point for many people, these publishers would generally prefer them not to borrow in the first place anyway.

Now, pulling out of OverDrive over Amazon’s sales opportunities makes sense in a few ways given the concern about the company’s increasing influence and the fact that other OverDrive partners don’t have similar options.  By offering no alternatives and openly embracing a philosophy of obstruction regarding eReading as a whole, however, Penguin is sending a message to their customers that they just don’t care who gets hurt by their sluggish reaction to new media.  They want to drive people away from the Kindle by making life harder for Kindle users, but really this just damages their own position.  Making a move like this without offering libraries other options was at best premature.

Penguin, Overdrive, and Amazon: Kindle Library Lending Gets Complicated

Kindle owners found themselves targeted recently in a fairly unpleasant way.  Penguin USA, one of the largest publishers in the world, decided that it would be a smart business move to pull their entire collection of publications from libraries across the country for Kindle owners.  Everybody else, including owners of competing eReaders like the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch, could still get these books.  Now, while things have been temporarily dealt with since then – Penguin has temporarily stopped singling out the Kindle users entirely – new Penguin books will not be made available anymore and there is reason to believe that the event will recur unless Penguin and OverDrive (the service providing eBook lending services for most libraries these days) are able to work out a deal by the end of the year.

Neither Penguin nor OverDrive has said anything about the exact details of Penguin’s problems.  OverDrive was simply sent word to disable the “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks immediately.  There was not even a warning sent to the affected libraries before the change took effect, which led to a great deal of ill will.  These libraries purchase each copy of the eBooks they rent out and as such were left sitting on the results of essentially wasted money that could not be lent out despite Kindle-owning customer demand.  The expected outcry for massive refunds, which would certainly have garnered a great deal of public sympathy, might well explain Penguin’s temporary capitulation.

Many have believably argued that this is a direct response to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that Amazon launched recently for their Prime members.  The timing certainly fits.  Amazon got around the fact that major publishers have refused to buy into this new program by focusing on their KDP titles, smaller publishers, and by outright purchase of each rented eBook that they could get their hands on through wholesale arrangements.  This last move is what causes the ill will since many publishers and authors feel that this exceeds the scope of their current relationships with Amazon.

While nobody involved in the Prime lending library is directly losing money, a major worry in the industry is that eBooks will lose perceived value.  If customers start thinking of eBooks as somehow inherently cheaper that printed books, then printed Book sales will suffer and publishers would be forced to rely on sales of the eBooks, which means being subject to Amazon and Barnes & Noble even more than they are now.  This is the same sort of reasoning that brought on the behind-the-scenes deal with Apple to fix prices of eBooks around the time the iBooks store opened up.

I would say that this is going to go poorly for Penguin.  While their need to react is understandable given that they feel wronged, the targeting was off a bit.  Instead of attacking Amazon directly, they have gone after their own readers.  Yes, the Amazon deal with OverDrive increases the incentive to purchase a Kindle, but going after libraries doesn’t do a lot to make you look better to a customer base that loves to read.  The Kindle is unlikely to be pushed out of the #1 slot in eBook Readers any time soon, even if all the major publishers pulled out of the library system in the same way.  It’s difficult to understand what Penguin is still hoping to accomplish here.