Penguin halts supply of e-books for lending


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The Independent Culture

The book publisher Penguin announced yesterday it will stop supplying e-books to British libraries.

Penguin's new digital titles will not be available from book lending websites and libraries,  but older titles will still be available to borrow in digital form, provided that the titles are held behind a firewall.

The publisher said that the decision to halt the supply of new e-books is because of "concerns about the security of the copyright of its authors".

The statement from Penguin said:"Penguin informed suppliers to libraries that it expected them to abide by existing agreements to offer older digital titles to libraries only if those files were held behind the firewalls of the suppliers."

E-books for lending are designed so that they vanish from e-book readers (like the Kindle) after a fixed period, but it is possible for hackers to break the coding and thereby hold on to an e-book indefinitely.

The publisher announced a similar move in the US earlier this week.'s “Get for Kindle” offering was removed after the announcement, but Penguin has now restored the supply.

Amazon has agreed to work with Penguin and its US Kindle supplier Overdrive to address Penguin's concerns over the security of the digital books.

Old e-books, that were available before Penguin announced its decision, will still be available on Amazon, at least until the end of this year.  

A spokesperson for Penguin said: "Penguin has been a long-time supporter of libraries, and the valuable role they play in connecting writers and readers in their local communities. Our overriding aim is to strike the right balance between access to our content and the protection of our authors’ copyright. In the meantime, readers will still be able to enjoy new Penguin titles in their physical editions and existing titles in digital form."

The Arts Council for England recently took over the responsibility for national libraries from the MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives). A  spokesperson for the Arts Council said: "A key element of our new role as the national development agency for libraries is to help explore different ways of people connecting with books and literature. Digital access will undoubtedly be important but the Arts Council appreciates the unique challenges associated with e-lending, including the protection of copyright.”

Earlier this month, Amazon's Kindle lending library was accused by The Author's Guiild, a US organisation which represents writers, of enrolling US publishers, including Penguin, into their Kindle lending library scheme without the publishers' permission.

Amazon said in its announcement for the scheme that the e-books came from a range of publishers under a "variety" of terms.