Simon & Schuster Expands Ebook Pilot

January 21, 2014

Simon & Schuster announced on January 16 through a joint press release that it is expanding its library ebook lending pilot to 12 large public libraries and three library consortia through OverDrive. The pilot began in April 2013 with 3M and Baker & Taylor and was limited to the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public libraries. Libraries participating in the pilot must offer a Buy it Now (BIN) opportunity to library users.

Michael Bills, Baker & Taylor’s director for sales of digital products, confirmed in an email that “as a condition of participation in the S&S pilot, libraries must offer an option for library users to purchase content.” The BIN feature seems to be central to S&S offering its content to libraries. When asked via email if S&S viewed the BIN feature as successful in its New York pilot, Adam Rothberg, senior vice president for corporate communications, said, “[the] consumer purchase option is an essential part of our library program. We think it could be a real benefit and convenience for library, customer, author, and publisher alike.” When asked if there is a benchmark S&S is looking for in sales to continue the pilot, he responded, “It is still early days on sales and data. We don’t have a firm benchmark, but we are excited for future possibilities.” While it is not clear if Simon & Schuster finds the direct sale option through pilot libraries to be successful, it is continuing to make this a requirement. Libraries that are comfortable or excited to offer a Buy it Now option will be pleased with this announcement, while those libraries not ready to join the sales force will have to do without S&S content for now.

Though the press release was issued by S&S jointly with OverDrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor are also able to market to the libraries and consortia listed, and they are able to market to more libraries that may be approved by S&S to enter the pilot. Tom C. Mercer, 3M Cloud Library marketing manager, said, “3M is also authorized to sell S&S content to each and every one of those accounts on the list. S&S does not determine which vendor sells their content and the library can choose to buy from 3M, OverDrive, or both. Baker & Taylor is authorized to sell to these libraries as well. According to B&T’s Bills, “B&T is part of the S&S pilot program expansion and is talking with libraries and consortia about the opportunity. S&S has distributed a short list of additional markets that they would allow to join.”

There is good news in the S&S announcement for library consortia. Simon & Schuster now joins Random House, Penguin, and HarperCollins in licensing ebooks to consortia. Macmillan and Hachette remain on the sidelines for now with their ebooks only available to individual libraries.

S&S referred me to OverDrive for comment on the price of S&S ebooks through this pilot. No response had been received as of this writing.

The libraries and consortia entering the pilot, according to Publishers Weekly, are: Boston Public Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, District of Columbia Public Library, Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, Greater Phoenix (Ariz.) Digital Library, Kent (Mich.) District Library, King County (Wash.) Library System, Lee County (Fla.) Library System, Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library, the North Carolina Digital Library, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, San Antonio (Tex,) Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Maryland Digital Library.

An updated matrix (PDF file) of Big Six ebook terms for libraries is now available.