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.

Authors asking for a boycott of Dorchester Press

Popular mid-list author Brian Keene has asked on his blog for a boycott of Dorchester Press (Leisure) for non-payment of royalties and publishing ebooks whose rights have reverted back to the authors. He is asking fans to:

*If you follow them on Twitter, please unfollow them.
*If you like them on Facebook, please unlike them.
*If you receive their marketing emails, please remove yourself from their list.
*If you belong to one of their book clubs, please consider canceling your membership.
*If you are considering publishing with them, please reconsider.
*Most importantly, please don’t buy their books, regardless of whether it’s on their website, in the $1.99 dump bin at Wal-Mart, or available on the Kindle.

When asked why he doesn’t hire a lawyer, he answers succinctly:

… someone asked me why we (the authors) didn’t just seek legal means. Well, I can’t speak for any of the other authors involved, but I’ll tell you why I haven’t — because I’m broke. I’m broke because Dorchester didn’t pay me what was owed, and then I gambled to get my rights back, and then they continued to fuck me. And yes, I’ve got a nice new deal with Deadite and Ghoul starts filming next month, but I won’t see checks from either of those until a few months from now, and until then, I can barely pay the rent and eat anything more than Ramen noodles, let alone hire an attorney.

Keene gives a list of authors supporting the boycott and links to a post by Robert Swartwood also asking for a boycott.

This situation is disturbing for several reasons. First, generally speaking, fans want to see authors to get paid.  That’s part of the reason that indie authors do well in the ebook market. As of today, Keene has 224 comments on his blog post and I read message after message of support.

Secondly, this highlights a concern about ebooks and digital property. There have been issues before about people publishing content they don’t have rights for. Amazon will certainly assume that a publisher (especially a well-known one) has the right to distribute an ebook for an author. 

Keene’s books happen to be on my TBR list; I don’t own them yet. And as a potential fan who wants to buy the books in an ebook format, it is extremely frustrating. I want to support the author but want to make sure that I don’t put money into the hands of a greedy publisher who would treat authors in this way.

Today Keene updated his blog with information from some other authors owed money by Dorchester.

This post composed while listening to the Ramones’ Greatest Hits.