Penguin Random House UK is making its full catalogue of 23,500 e-books available for libraries to lend.
From today (8th December) libraries will be able to purchase titles from the complete PRH UK e-book list so that users will be able to choose whether to borrow a physical copy or download a digital version.
All of PRH UK’s front and backlist titles that are available as e-books will be eligible for the trial, with new titles available to borrow three months after first publication.
Ian Hudson, deputy c.e.o, PRH UK, said the move was “designed to uphold the important role that libraries play in supporting literacy, while recognising that new technologies had changed some people’s reading habits”.
He added that the scheme would be for an “initial year-long trial, to assess market impact”, but was being launched “with a view to rolling it out permanently, if successful”.
“Penguin Random House exists to connect authors and readers," Hudson said. "By enabling libraries to lend e-books alongside physical copies, we can help protect the pivotal role that libraries have in building literacy and the love of reading in our communities. This new initiative will allow libraries to keep pace with digital change and help them offer the newest releases alongside classics, old favourites and rarer gems in whatever format readers want.
“We firmly believe that libraries need to be able to embrace both physical and digital formats to stay relevant as shared, community-centric places where users can connect with each other and find information, stories and entertainment.
“However we also acknowledge the genuine concerns of booksellers and want to fully understand whether or not library e-book lending might impact physical sales.”
The scheme follows a previous shorter trial headed by the Society of Chief Librarians and the Publishers Association, which was instigated as a result of The Sieghart review into library e-lending.
Commenting on the review, conducted in February 2014, William Sieghart said in November of last year: "As the government looks to deliver more services digitally, it's more crucial than ever that libraries can provide access."
Ciara Eastell, Society of Chief Librarians’ (SCL) president, said: “On behalf of all library users and customers, SCL welcomes this initiative from Penguin Random House UK. It builds upon the success and outcomes from the e-lending pilots which were led by SCL and the Publishers’ Association and it will be an important step forward in enabling increased access to e-books for all library users.”
Registered library users will be able to access e-books purchased by the library through the libraries’ online platforms and apps.
As with physical books, a copy of an e-book can only be read by one customer at a time. When the e-book is checked back in, it will be released to the next customer in line. Each title acquired by a library is useable for two years from the date of purchase or for 36 loans (whichever comes first).
PRH UK’s e-book lending scheme is open to any library worldwide, including school libraries, which have a distribution agreement with Browns Books for Students, VLeBooks, OverDrive, Gardners, Askews & Holts, Bolinda, WF Howes, RM Books, Wheelers Books and Bibliotheca and where PRH UK holds the requisite rights.
Penguin Random House Australia and New Zealand will also be joining the trial today, making its catalogue of nearly 4,000 titles available on the same terms.
In the USA, Penguin Random House has been successfully running an e-book library lending programme for the past several years.