Penguin says users can’t sue

Paid Content is announcing that Kindle and NOOK users must accept arbitration instead of suing them in the pending class action lawsuits over ebook pricing. Penguin is using the rationale that users agreed to this in Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s terms of service for the ereader devices.
 
I am not a lawyer, but I don’t think the argument holds water. When the publishers put the agency model into effect, Amazon became their agent, not the other way around. Amazon even collected sales tax based on the publisher. It doesn’t make sense that the publisher can’t turn around and hide behind Amazon on this one.

Penguin Restores Access to Library Books, but…

My, how one day changes things! Penguin has restored access to Kindle versions of their ebooks, but still has concerns, including some that (surprise) need to be worked out with Amazon.  New ebook titles are still not available in OverDrive.

But now, Random House has announced that it is reviewing its own library ebook policies.

As the story evolves, Twitter users are labeling Tweets about the issue with the hashtag #penguinod.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a day of a lot of speculation on possible reasons for Penguin’s actions. It was also a day of reactions from both librarians and patrons.

An article in the Library Journal’s Digital Shift detailed how complaints from angry patrons surprised librarians who had no advance warning that the books were being pulled. The tension between Penguin and Amazon, along with a past history of difficult negotiations is also cited in the article as a possible reason for the books’ removal from the OverDrive System.

OverDrive’s initial announcement mentioned “security concerns” with the ebooks. The Digital shift article also reported that patrons has stated that, at least in some incidences, books are remaining on the patrons’ Kindles after the lending period is over.

And from Paid Content, there’s a thoughtful article by Laura Hazard Owen that offers answers to its own questions in  Why Might a Publisher Pull Its E-Books From Libraries?

In a piece from Teleread, InfoDocket’s Gary Price points to a February 2011 letter by OverDrive CEO Steve Potash  published on Librarian by Day as a possible explanation for Penguin’s actions:

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). [EMPHASIS ADDED] I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

When this letter was originally written back in February during the licensing change demanded by Harper Collins, it seemed that this paragraph seemed squarely directed at concerns over libraries like The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Long before the Kindle allowed library lending, the Free Library had long been discussed on sites like Kindleboards.com and the MobileRead.com forums as a source of library ebooks. The library allowed out-of-state residents to get a library card for a fee.  Users could then use their computers and the OverDrive system to access the ebooks.

Because of its large collection, the Free Library has been very affected by loss of Penguin ebooks and is keeping its patrons updated on its blog.

This whole situation is making it confusing for consumers who have bought or were planning to buy ereaders as gifts for the holidays. The prices of Kindles have come down significantly ($79 for the entry-level e-ink,  $199 for the Kindle Fire). But many consumers have been adamant that lending and library books are an essential part of the equation.

Competitor Barnes and Noble has already announced that its Simple Touch Nook will be only $79 on Black Friday. Kobo is selling its Touch at more retail stores and plans to offer wi-fi Kobo readers for only $59. Ereaders and tablets will likely be big sellers this holiday season.

Sarah from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog did a nice write-up on this whole situation yesterday and summed it up succinctly: ” Holy crap in a sidecar, you cannot make up lunacy this frustrating. I need to read a romance. STAT.”

Yeah, Sarah, save one for me. I am sure we haven’t heard the last of this….

Penguin pulls Kindle Books from libraries

I wanted to sit down and write my impressions of the Kindle Fire now that I have had a few days to play with it. Instead, I was shocked to find that Penguin has pulled its Kindle books from the OverDrive system.

According to OverDrive:

Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks.   In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle”  functionality for all Penguin eBooks.   We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier.  We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible.

The Digital Shift is reporting that Penguin is saying the new policy is not specific to Kindles, but governs all versions of their ebook titles across the board.

Libraries and patrons are telling a different story, however. In an Amazon forum on the subject, some patrons are pointing out that only Kindle versions are disappearing. Some libraries have had as many books vanish from their digital shelves. It is important to note that those are books purchased with library funds (generally taxpayer funded).

I don’t think that it is coincidental that this is happening when Amazon is trying to start a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. There has been a lot of tension about ebook lending since Big Six publisher Harper Collins limited libraries to only 26 check-outs of their titles.  Many people (myself included) are still boycotting Harper Collins  until that limitation is resolved.

Penguin has already been facing criticsm over its Book Country “service,” which many authors believe does nothing but take more money from authors.

But to single out the popular Kindle smacks not only of fear and greed, but a form of censorship as well. And that’s not something that sets well with me. Sure, I could read books on one of my other devices: I’ve got an iPod, a Nook. I could read any format on one of the apps on my android tablets. But I will not be told which device I have to read their ebooks on. I already boycott MacMillian and Harper Collins because of their practices. I already boycott books priced over $9.99. I will be happy to add Penguin to the list as well.