Penguin makes its ebooks available to libraries through Overdrive once again

About a year and a half after Penguin stopped making ebooks available to libraries through digital distributor Overdrive, the companies have resumed their relationship, Overdrive announced Wednesday. That means that Penguin’s 17,000 ebooks are now available to U.S. libraries that work with Overdrive.

Overdrive is the largest digital library distributor in the United States — if your public library lends ebooks, it is probably through Overdrive. Penguin had officially ended its relationship with Overdrive in February 2012. Since then, it’s worked with Overdrive competitor 3M Cloud Library. But 3M Cloud Library works with many fewer libraries than Overdrive, so the effect was that most library patrons did not have access to Penguin ebooks.

Penguin had never stated exactly why it stopped working with Overdrive, but it had cited security concerns. One of those was likely the fact that Overdrive had allowed library patrons to check out Penguin Kindle books wirelessly via Amazon’s website. In Overdrive and Penguin’s new relationship, that is no longer allowed: Overdrive noted that “Penguin eBooks are available for Kindle (US) via USB side-loading only.” In other words, patrons will no longer be sent to Amazon’s website from Overdrive. Instead they’ll have to download the ebooks and transfer them manually to their Kindles.

Overdrive says Penguin will charge libraries $18.99 for “popular new releases” and $5.99 to $9.99 for older titles. An ebook can only be checked out by one user at a time and the library will have to buy a new copy after a year.

Other publishers also place restrictions on ebook library lending. Random House makes all of its ebooks available to libraries, but at prices as much as three times higher than the retail price. HarperCollins allows its ebooks to be checked out 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Hachette makes all its ebooks available to libraries and charges more than the retail price, but a library only has to buy a copy once. Macmillan is running a two-year trial that makes 1,200 older ebooks available to libraries. Simon & Schuster does not make its ebooks available to libraries.