PRH Prices Are Being Adjusted, But . . .

Some RF member libraries are reporting that Penguin Random House is indeed adjusting library e-book prices.

For example:

·Titles in the Cold Fury Hockey series went from $14.97 to $55 to the current $10.  Thank goodness as this series is very popular with our customers.

Crazy Rich Asians went from $48 to $55 to the current $45.  It’s interesting, however, that China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are now $50, not $45. It will be interesting to see if they eventually normalize at the lower price.

In the Loveswept imprint, all but a handful (that aren’t box sets) are now $10, down from $14.97. That’s a drop on around 650 titles.

The price drop is welcome, but the move to a two-year metered model still poses challenges for libraries. For example, one library buyer points out the following: “Today I have to buy 11 more A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult this week (on top of the 32 we’ve already purchased) to reach our holds ratio. Each copy is $55, but in 24 months we won’t have a single one of them in our collection. Picoult is a perennial favorite, and I will no doubt be purchasing this title for years to come if Metered Access is the only lending model available.”

Adds another, “Our consortium budget can no way absorb having to re-buy this volume of titles.”

Having to repurchase every two years will likely decrease the variety and depth of digital titles that libraries can offer, with either high-demand titles displacing everything else or (and?) librarians facing patrons’ frustrated cry of “what I want is never available.”

PRH, we appreciate you engaging in a conversation with libraries. Please keep the door open. What we need, again, is OPTIONS! Work with us. Pilot at least a perpetual one user/one copy and a metered 52 circ model on all titles. We can talk price options. If we can use PRH efficiently, libraries will buy more from you. Our collections, and your bottom line, will benefit.

Take Action For Libraries

From our friends at the ALA Washington Office:

Advocacy Alert: Museum and Library Services Act

We need you to take action today!

On the heels of our amazing funding news last week, the Museum and Library Services Act - legislation to reauthorize the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) - was introduced in both the Senate (S.3530) and House (H.R.6988) this past Friday with strong leadership and bipartisan support.

ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo praised the new legislation: "ALA appreciates the many ways these two bills build on the successes of previous reauthorizations of the IMLS. We applaud all of the hard work to ensure S. 3530 and H.R. 6988 equitably distribute Library Services and Technology Act funds to large and small states, expands eligibility for tribal libraries, supports disaster readiness, and reinforces ALA's message that strong communities need strong libraries."

With few working days available to Congress to consider legislation, only bills with bipartisan support are likely to pass. ALA's goal now is to have Congress take up S.3530 and H.R.6988 as soon as possible.

If both bills are passed, it will deliver a strong message from Congress that funding for federal library programs is a priority for them. Please email your Senators and email your Representative today and urge them to cosponsor the Museum and Library Services Act.

Edited: Et tu, PRH? Maybe not. Let’s find out more

Is this the other shoe dropping? Update: maybe not. It looks as if Penguin Random House is going to drop prices on some “top tier” authors from $65 to $55, but raise prices on many others.

OverDrive sent out this notice to its clients.

RF will post more as we learn about this possible unwelcome change. For now, we don’t know if many prices will in fact be raised. Expect a follow-up post if we find out.

Update: This matter is more complicated than it might seem at first sight. A closer look at some upcoming PRH pricing suggests that while adjustments are going on, a majority of titles are not going up in price. Some titles are being increased but they are not necessarily titles (omnibus titles, some classics like those in Everyman’s Library) that libraries buy much of. Other adjustments are being made based on BISAC subject headings, with some titles moving from a children’s or young adult or adult classification to a different one. Overall, some percentage of titles will increase, but a far larger percentage is going to decrease. Many titles of primary interest to libraries are being adjusted down since the initial list was released. PRH is also planning to offer a pricing sale with discounts on library e-books soon, though apparently not every library vendor always offers discounts when they appear. ReadersFirst suggests a “wait and see” before reacting strongly to get a better idea of exactly what all the price changes are going to be and what PRH will do in response to any library concerns. An immediate purchase of titles that “are expected” to increase may not be in a library’s best interest, in spite of some recommendations.

 Dear Partner,

We received additional information about the price changes that will take effect October 1, 2018 for the Penguin Random House ebook catalog. In general, the pricing for ebooks will be as follows:

  • Adult titles: $55.00/$57.00 USD

  • Young Adult titles: $45.00/$47.00 USD

  • Children's titles: $35.00/$37.00 USD

There are exceptions to these price points that may vary by audience level. Please note, the new pricing results in both price decreases as well as increases from the current pricing across the catalog, which vary on a title by title basis.

We reviewed the upcoming price changes and created a list for you in OverDrive Marketplace that include ebooks we expect will have a price increase after October 1, 2018. We recommend you take advantage of the cost savings by purchasing now, as prices will be increasing on these titles on October 1. The pricing is subject to change.

If you have any questions, please contact your Account Manager.

Thank you,


An ALA Response to PRH and A Criticism from RF

The ReadersFirst Working group is made up of many passionate librarians, and, like many diverse groups, we gain strength from our debates. One such occurrence has happened over the ALA’s Alan Inouye’s response to recent e-book business model changes and ALA’s plans for the future.

Inouye rightly points out that Penguin Random House’s price reduction and change away from a “pretend-it’s-print” perpetual license offers some advantages. More copies might be obtained for the same price, while multiple copies bought for high initial demand can be “used up” and need not be weeded later.

His thought that “those relatively few school, public, and special libraries for which preservation is central to their mission” and which “may decide to shift to print books for some titles” is more problematic.

Let’s hear from some front line librarians who are more inclined to agree with Nate Hoffelder that “Penguin Random House is changing its license terms for library ebooks from ‘insanely expensive’ to ‘ridiculously expensive and short-lived’.”

Susan Caron of Toronto Public Library (which circulates more than 3 million e-books a year) says “ ‘We’ll be blowing our budget and brains out reordering John Grisham forever.’ We have such a big collection (over 100,000 titles) that the work of renewing or not is already overwhelming – this means it has to be done for 4 out of 5 publishers and the biggest. Also, pricing does not make up for it (and we haven’t seen the Canadian prices yet) but [they are likely] nowhere near [as low as Harper-Collins]. We’re very disappointed. Solid, deep collections, which we’ve been trying to build, will become more ephemeral. E-books will become the temporary bestseller collection rather than a comprehensive digital collection that complements and provides an alternative to print.”

Cathy Mason of Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Ohio Digital Downloads Consortium (over 2 million e-books per year circulated) concurs: “I’d much rather spend the extra $10 for access to a title we get to keep forever.  Metered access is best suited to titles that are more of a risk.  I’ve always hated that Stephen King is a 12 month author. I [have been investigating] books and series that go out of print that we still have in e.  Bluford High is super popular here but hasn’t been available for purchase in print for years.  Luckily we have over 20 of the titles available forever to customers through our digital collection.  I’m also thinking about the typical short print runs of large print volumes and how ebooks are so easily adjusted to suit the readers’ preferences or needs.  A 24 month meter will leave large print customers wanting. Ultimately I’d like to lobby for a hybrid model of forever copies for the depth of collection plus the ability to buy metered access (in either form) to fulfill initial and/or occasional resurgent interest.”

So, we may save on some titles, but at the cost of variety, collection depth, preservation (including titles not in print anymore, for which we can’t rely on print), access for those who need large print, and constant re-working of our collections. Cathy Mason speaks for RF when she advocates for multiple license models for every title.

Peguin Random House, we second Mr. Inouye’s thanks for listening and remaining committed to libraries (unlike Macmillan/Tor’s rude stiff-arming of us). But let’s make this step one of many. Give us multiple models per title and let us use e-books in a way that will make you money while building a collection worthy of the name.

Cathy, Susan, and Michael

100,000 Books in 5 Countries: What's Really Happening in eLending

A team from Australia has released the results of a large-scale study, reports Rebecca Giblin of Monash University,  examining "the relative availability, licence terms and pricing of almost 100,000 books across the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. An interactive dashboard that allows you to visually query this rich dataset (or download it in its entirety) is available at, together with tutorials and more details about our methodology."

Rebecca also gave part of the keynote address at IFLA's World Library and Information Congress. Hers is the first 43 minutes of the presentation, which is is also available online, and "contains an overview of some of the most fascinating discoveries we've made from the data." It is well worth a watch!

Some highlights:

1. "For our sampled titles, the US had one of the best availabilities (second only to Canada). Still, it was missing over 11,000 books that were available to its neighbors in other countries."

2. "To our surprise, there were many books that were available to the US on more limited licences than in other countries. For example, the chart I've pasted below shows the distribution of licences in the 15,000 odd cases where they're different across the five countries. It shows the the US (together with Canada and the UK) more often has metered access than One Copy/One User, and that the form of metering is most often loans only (with relatively few time-limited licences). If you download that data from the dashboard, you will also see that US libraries are often asked to pay a higher price for a metered licence than some other countries are, for the same books, on OC/OU terms."

Rebecca concludes "This data is a game changer in terms of shining light on what has really been happening in elending licensing, and raise important questions (which we're now beginning to study) about what it means for reform of law, policy and practice."

RF thanks Rebecca and team for a fascinating study and hopes to further explore some of the results with the team. 

Penguin Random changes e-book models--somewhat for the better

Penguin Random is changing e-book business model from perpetual ("pretend its print") to metered access.

As so often Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly is on the case, and shares more information:

ReadersFirst has a mixed but generally quite favorable response. 

Lower prices are always good.

A model based only on number of circs rather than a two year time limit would have been even better news.

Better news still would be if public libraries could have BOTH options: metered and perpetual.

Even better news still would be if a whole range of options were available at time of purchase: pay-per-use, subscription, metered, perpetual.

Still this news comes as rare and refreshing fruit, and is a welcome contrast to recent changes made by Tor/Macmillan, whose failure to engage with libraries makes it abundantly clear that they are utterly uninterested in libraries or their readers. It will help libraries meet the needs of readers more effectively while being responsible to Penguin Random's need to benefit authors.

A big thanks, and also a tip of the hat, to Mr. Skip Dye of Penguin Random, who attended the National E-Book Summit at ALA and has shown a true commitment to working with libraries.  Thanks, Skip, for listening!



Two Articles from PW about Tor's E-book Widowing: Take Actiom

Two articles have recently appeared in Publisher's Weekly about the Tor/Macmillan decision to "widow" library e-books for four months after the public has access.

One is from Sari Feldman, former ALA President, initial leader of ALA's Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), and ALA’s Digital Content Fellow:

RF supports her suggestion that--in spite of the efforts of individual advocates, including many members of our RF Working Group--libraries as a whole have nodded off on e-book advocacy. Few of the DCWG's efforts were continued after it was disbanded for not fitting long-term into ALA's structure. We agree that Tor's decision needs to be a wake-up call for group action.  Why not start by joining the Canadian Urban Library Council (and soon Urban Library Council and may others) in writing a letter?  CULC's website has great examples, with the names and addresses you need:  

In the second, Andrew Albanese provides evidence to dispute Tor's claims that library e-book sales are significantly harming big publisher revenues, leading to questions many of us are asking:  "Is this a Tor 'test' being done with Macmillan’s permission? Or is it a Macmillan test using Tor? And what exactly is being tested by treating e-book readers differently in libraries than print readers? What’s the purpose of an embargo for new titles for the first four months?" Mr. Albanese had talked with other publishers as well, and gives a good overview of their replies. [Full disclosure:  members of RF Working Group have provided information for this article.]

Tor/Macmillan are refusing comment. Exactly what their aim (since their unsupported claim of lost sales to libraries rings hollow) is can only be guessed.  But it is time for actin.  A letter to is a great start, but should a PR campaign by libraries aimed at readers and judicious use (or withholding!) of our buying power follow, coupled with renewed industry-wide advocacy?


Thanks to Ms. Feldman and Mr. Albanese for their excellent work.

Ill-Considered Skulduggery

Neither the American Library Association nor the Canadian Urban Library Council have received replies to their communications with Tor (even though CULC sent their letters directly to the CEOs of Tor and Macmillan).

Tor has still not made a public statement about widowing library e-book sales. They have communicated only through library e-content vendors rather than their actual clients, the libraries that get and provide access to the content.

A number of RF Working Group members have sent statistics on Tor holdings.  These libraries or library consortiums generally have comparatively large and heavily used collections.  Here are a few:

  • NYPL:  500 titles with 1,168 copies
  • Broward County:  249 titles
  • Maryland Digital Library: 45 titles with 149 copies
  • Ohio Digital Downloads Collaboration:  396 Titles
  • Vancouver Public Library:  134 titles
  • Ottawa Public Library: 279 titles with 421 copies
  • Sno-Isle: 685 titles with 812 copies
  • Mass Library System:  147 Titles
  • Santa Clara County District Library:  182 titles. 

These are some of the largest pubic library e-books collections yet Tor titles make up collectively less than a third of a percent of holdings. Many smaller libraries own NO Tor e-book titles at all. Many of these holdings listed above are also for just a few authors, with many Tor authors have no library e-books licenses. Unless Tor sells remarkably few e-books, library sales probably do not represent a large percentage overall sales (perhaps that is the problem--Tor believes it can ignore this market segment). If such is the case, let's subvert Tor's argument. If we are not a large market segment, how can we be costing much in sales? If we are a fair share of the market, then let's look at a true measure of value:  revenue, not individual sales. We pay a hefty price for Tor e-books, and they are not even permanently available (being licensed per circ/time limited). Are we not giving adequate revenue?  If not, then don't widow our sales. Talk with us about pricing.

Tor's claim that libraries are costing them sales is, as previously stated in this forum, suspect. What then is their real purpose? Could it simply be to drive more direct sales in the first 4 months to Amazon in hope of getting more individual reviews and higher rankings?At least say so.

In light of Tor's failure to make any public statement, their refusal to respond to expressions of library concern or otherwise engage us, their weak or non-existent explanations for widowing library e-books, their insistence on an "experiment" rather than honest negotiation, and the probability of motives they choose not to disclose, we call Tor's move ill-considered skulduggery. 

Is it time to reach out to library users, explain why we can't get them the titles they might want when they want them, and call for a large-scale boycott of Tor, print and digital?      

The First Results From an International Elending Study

The first part of results of an Australian elending study are available. I hope to be able to send a link to a full write-up of the study (which discusses larger ramifications and has some international comparisons) soon.

You may find it here: The website with the interactive dashboards is now live at

This part reviews the five main elending aggregators in Australia using interactive dashboards. There is a tutorial on the dashboards on the site. One can, however, simply start working. For example, if I select Publisher Category “Big 5,” I can then see what number of 546 sample titles are available from the 5 vendor platforms individually and in aggregate, if the same titles are offered in different licensing terms on the platforms, if the same titles are offered at different prices by the vendors, whether titles are available in metered format, etc.

So, why would this part of the study be significant for U.S. and Canadian libraries? First, two of the five vendors are OverDrive and Bibliotheca, who of course operate here. Second, if the same title might be offered in Australia with a different license by different e-book vendors and at different prices, might the same not be true of titles in the U.S. or Canada.  For example, in the example above, 19 titles vary in price across platforms by 5 to 10%; 170 vary by 10-20%; 29 vary by 20-30%; 13 vary by 30-40%; 4 by 40-50%; and 9 by more than 50%.

This study is being followed up by a fuller and more statistically significant study of 100,000 titles. I would very much like to replicate at least the smaller study by looking at elending vendors in the U.S. and Canada to see if we could find similar variations in availability, licensing, and prices. I hope it might become a future ReadersFirst project.

It Was Expected . . .

The ReadersFirst Working Group joined many other libraries in expressing our dismay over Tor/Macmillan's decision to widow library eBooks sales.

We have received  a response:  "Thank you for taking the time to write to us about Tor's change in their eLending policy.   We appreciate your candid and thoughtful response as we engage in this test pilot, and we will share your feedback with the publisher."

In other words, a very polite "Whatever" and confirmation that Tor is going to proceed with its "test pilot," despite lacking all evidence that library eBook sales have any affect on their market and in the face of a mountain of data suggesting that market forces, including agency pricing, are the true issue.

We continue to encourage libraries and library users to express their concerns to Tor/Macmillan, without much hope that anyone will be engaged in return. The lack of respect for libraries and their readers in this reply is palpable. But then in light of how this policy was rolled out, Tor's failure to engage and its utter indifference to the library market were to be expected.