Historical eBook Availability & Pricing

Publishing Houses

On November 11, 2011, Librarian By Day, Bobbie Newman summarized how each of the "Big Six" publishing houses was working with (or not working with) public libraries. Now let’s talk about the Big Six. If you’re not familiar that would be:

  • Hachette
  • HarperCollins
  • MacMillan
  • Penguin
  • Random House
  • Simon and Schuster

Both MacMillan and Simon and Schuster have refused to make their ebooks available to public libraries since day one. Hachette Book Group stopped offering its frontlist ebook titles to libraries in July 2011. HarperCollins last year (2010) announced their 26 check out policy. Penguin right now new titles aren’t available while they work out security concerns. Random House works with libraries.



Take a look at this chart comparing Library Pricing v. Consumer Pricing for both print and eBooks. Many thanks to Douglas County Libraries, who looked at some of the current bestselling titles. As you can see, not only do libraries pay much more for eBooks but we are not even offered some of the most popular titles.

Licensing & Policies

May 2013: According to the Urban Libraries Council's Briefing Paper, "Libraries, Publishers and Public Access to E-Books," as of May 2013:

  • "None of the six largest publishers are selling or licensing e-books to public libraries in the same way they do print editions.
  • Three (Hachette, Macmillan, and Random House) have adopted pricing policies that make e-books more expensive than print editions.**
  • (Two) others (Penguin USA and Simon and Schuster) still continue to not make e-books available to all libraries and are only now piloting programs that would make them available." (The sixth, HarperCollins, makes all titles available for libraries but with restrictions. Once each title is checked out 26 times it 'expires' and individual libraries need to 'purchase' it again for further access.)

Items in parentheses and emphasis mine.

**Note that, because of Hachette's and Macmillan's terms of service to consortia, and because Selco denied our request to enroll in the OverDrive Advantage program, neither Hachette nor Macmillan titles are available to us. In summary: From the Big 6 publishers, we can only offer you eBooks from HarperCollins (with a 26-checkout limit) and Random House (at inflated pricing).


The fact that all of the "Big 6" publishers are making at least some titles available to at least some libraries, with inflated pricing and/or other restrictions, is an 'improvement' over where we were a few months ago.