The Big Six Publishers and Library Lending: An Update

September 27, 2013

In May 2013, when I started to track the Big Six and their library lending terms, there were a lot of changes taking place in the publishing world. I assumed that I’d be issuing updates at least monthly. Instead, we entered a time of limited change until September 25, when Penguin resumed licensing its ebooks through OverDrive. Since OverDrive is the leading provider of ebooks to public libraries, the lack of access to Penguin titles has been frustrating to say the least. Penguin’s titles are also now available to consortia as well as to individual libraries through Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and 3M Cloud Library.

Another change captured in this update is the actual merger of Penguin and Random House effective July 1. For now these major publishers are maintaining their own identities and their very different library ebook policies. So, for the purpose of this matrix,* I have treated them as separate publishers; thus the Big Six are still six here.

The other change is from Macmillan, which added access to its recently acquired imprint Entangled to its Minotaur offerings in August. Perhaps libraries can look forward to the availability of more ebook titles from Macmillan in the near future.

These changes do nothing to simplify the challenging ebook market for libraries or for borrowers. Pricing and lending terms are as complex as ever and some publishers are still unwilling to license to consortia.

ROBERT C. MAIER, former director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, is a member of ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group.

* Big Six Ebook Terms (PDF file).