Random House continues its commitment to unrestricted public library lending

Random House continues its commitment to unrestricted public library lending

Outside of one truly significant exception*, I think of Random House as one of the…wisest of the Big Six trade publisher in the USA.

Even when I was a bookstore manager, I looked forward to specifically what Random House and its imprints were going to release.

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

Random House has recently reaffirmed its commitment to making its books available to public libraries.

Your immediate thought might be, “Doesn’t everybody?”

Unfortunately, no.

As they liist n the article, Random House isn’t

“…limiting lends (such as HarperCollins) or title availability (such as Penguin, Hachette) or not lending at all (Macmillan and Simon & Schuster).”

To repeat that, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster do not license their e-books to public libraries at all.

There was some fear that Random House was going to put some big restriction in place. They stayed out of the Agency Model for almost a year, but then joined it in March of 2011. ..some were concerned that a similar about face was about imminent.

According to the PW article, they are not joining forces with the restrictors.

They are going to raise licensing fees, but people don’t seem particularly concerned about that. That sort of thing happens in the normal course of business, and e-books are a new enough mass market that people expect their to be a certain fluidity at this point.

Kudos to Random House for continuing this open policy.

I still think that what may happen in the future is that all of the publishers may allow e-book lending…and a needs-tested basis. In other words, for people who are “certified poor” in some way (one possibility would be proof of enrollment in some appropriate government program, such as food stamps), the publishers would allow them to borrow e-books for free.

Publishers could do that directly, or might do it through a public library system or even through retailers like Amazon.

Publishers have always donated books (and gotten write-offs for it), and I think they would participate in a program like that.

I do understand it would take some infrastructure, of course.

What do you think? Are you please with Random House for this? Worried about the rising prices for your library system? Angry at restrictors? Curious about why publishers would (or would not) restrict? Feel free to make a comment or ask a question.

* Random House led the way in blocking text-to-speech access in Kindle store books. I was very disappointed in them for that atypical behavior. I didn’t buy any of their products (e-books, paper, or otherwise) for some time because of that. Later, when they had removed the statement that they were blocking access in all of their e-books and I started noticing some that were not blocked, I changed that to not buy any books with the access blocked (from any publisher, of course).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

12 Responses to “Random House continues its commitment to unrestricted public library lending”

  1. Deb Schmalz Says:

    Good for Random House and it’s imprints. With a tax write-off I’m sure the others would follow. It’s always about the bottom line, but that’s what they’re in business for.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Deb!

      They get a tax write-off already when they donate physical books (and publishers do, or at least, they used to do that when I managed a bookstore).

      Part of the bottom line is getting people to want to shop with you…and donations can be part of that.

  2. Rosemary Says:

    On another subject, A Nook is being offered on the NYT site with a year’s subscription to the NYT.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Rosemary!

      I’ll take a look at that one. I don’t have anything against the NOOK..I think it’s a good device. The main thing for me is that I think Amazon’s Customer Service is better.

  3. Roy Knight Says:

    A water leak is sometime difficult to find because it seeks the lowest point of gravity. If publishers keep messing with the relative freedom to acquire and read then they will be surprised to find the morphed ability to find and read will bypass their marketing smarts.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roy!

      It’s a good point. What I think a lot of businesses still miss is the relatively universality of the internet, especially among savvy buyers.

      I would guess most serious readers are also internet savvy. When you do something that affects a relatively small set of entities (like public libraries…they spend a lot of money, of course, but there aren’t as many of them as there are individual consumers) everybody hears about it…and they may treat it like it affected them personally.

      You can’t make a move against a small group and hope it doesn’t get noticed any more.

  4. Connie Abbitt Says:

    Guess I’ll pay more attention to whio publishes the book I MIGHT want to buy in the future!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Connie!

      It may be because of my background as a bookstore manager, but I’ve always paid attention to publishers. I think most people don’t, but I find it interesting to know them and their policies.

  5. finrind Says:

    I’m sorry, but I think that lending has been the libraries’ right and borrowing books from libraries has been people’s right for centuries, and I don’t see how the change of media (which the transition from paper to ebooks is) should change that. I’m quietly waiting for someone to finally take notice and rule publishers’ restrictions on libraries’ access to their ebooks as illegal.
    So I think it’s really perverse that we need to praise and admire RH for doing smth that shouldn’t even get mentioned because it should be the norm, not a great, exceptional kindness.
    And BTW, the announcement was not only that they’re keeping the access, but that they are increasing the prices for libraries, so no, they aren’t good Samaritans.
    Check out the Digital Reader – they got it really right.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, finrind!

      I appreciate your passion, and you don’t have to apologize for stating your opinion.

      If you are talking about free public libraries, “centuries” might be a bit of an exaggeration. There is a lot of debate about how to define that, but if we go with a publicly-funded library from which members of the public can borrow books without a specific fee, we are probably looking at early 19th Century. However, let’s just call it a “long time” and let it go with that. 🙂

      Since what is typically happening with an e-book is a license, I find it unlikely that it is going to be ruled illegal, but of course, I’m always willing to wait and see. Public libraries do have more rights under copyright laws than individuals, but I think it is unlikely that publishers will be legally compelled to contract with them.

      My tendency is always to recognize someone for doing something that does something that I see as having a net effect of benefiting others. While perhaps it “should be the norm” for publishers to freely license their books to public libraries, it isn’t. Random House could have restricted their licensing, and didn’t…despite their competitors having done that. While I wasn’t making any Biblical comparisons, I do think that’s worthy of notice. I like to encourage people when they do things I see as positive. My praising Random House could encourage other publishers to lessen their restrictions, hypothetically. My ignoring it would have their public relations departments saying, “Nobody cares…Random House didn’t get any plus out of doing it, so we’re good the way we are.” I could criticize the restrictors, but as a trainer, I always find that rewarding the positive works better than punishing the negative.

      I appreciate you linking to the other article: I always like people to have more information.

      The approach in that article is not something I would do. I’m not a fan of inflammatory language. When you use an example of spousal abuse, such as they did, my belief is that it tends to alienate people from what may be a perfectly reasonable position. It is going to tend to generate negative feelings, which are then associated with what you wrote. If someone has been abused, it’s hurtful for them to read. Equating a crime of assault like that with a business practice will also make some people think that the assault is being given insufficient weight on the part of the writer.

      Saying that Random House “hates libraries”, as the author of the post Nate Hoffelder says, simply doesn’t seem to be constructive to me or supported by the actions. I presume that if they hated libraries, they simply wouldn’t do business with them…or at least, would match their competitors’ restrictions.

      I think the suggestion that they would have cut off the libraries but feared bad publicity doesn’t seem to match what has happened with other publishers or with Random House’s own practices. When they blocked text-to-speech access, that resulted in some negative publicity…but they still did it, and I didn’t see any weakening in that policy for some time.

      Just to point it out, I also mentioned the rise in prices in the article you read:

      “They are going to raise licensing fees, but people don’t seem particularly concerned about that. That sort of thing happens in the normal course of business, and e-books are a new enough mass market that people expect their to be a certain fluidity at this point.”

      So, I think this really a question of a difference of approaches. Some people (many people) like writing that highlights the negative. I prefer (both reading and writing) articles that highlight the positive. This is a good, interesting example. We both presented the information that Random House was continuing the most unrestricted library licensing policy of the Big Six, and that they were going to raise the fees. My genuine hope would be that people would read both articles…I like them to get a diversity of perspective.

      Thanks for writing!

  6. Round up #73: Amazon and accessibility, Random (House) raises rates « I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] February, I wrote that “Random House continues its commitment to unrestricted public library lending”. I […]

  7. Obama’s plan for needs tested library books…where have I heard that before? ;) | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Random House continues its commitment to unrestricted public library lending […]

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