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New York - The publisher of Stephen King, Bob Woodward and other top-selling authors has changed its policy of withholding e-books from libraries.
Simon & Schuster announced a 1-year pilot program Monday with three New York City library systems that cover the city's five boroughs. Simon & Schuster had been the last of the "Big Six" publishers to keep its entire e-catalog off-limits to libraries. Publishers have worried that free library downloads could lead to lost sales, while libraries have advocated for the largest possible selection.
"We've been having conversations with libraries for a long time, trying to come up with something that we felt would work for us. And I think we finally found the key pieces," Simon & Schuster's president and CEO, Carolyn Reidy, said Monday.
One key piece: Allowing patrons to buy copies of a given book, with some of the proceeds going to the library.
"This bold new program is an important step in the right direction," Queens Library President and CEO Thomas W. Galante said in a statement issued by Simon & Schuster. "It not only gives our customers access to some of the hottest titles; it also offers an innovation to allow patrons to purchase titles and support the library at the same time. It's a win for everyone."
Reidy said that any Simon & Schuster release, old or new, that's available commercially as an e-book will be offered to libraries. That means current titles such as Jodi Picoult's "The Storyteller," recent works such as Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" and such classics as F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." Reidy added that she hopes to expand the number of libraries in the program before the trial period ends.
Like Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA) and other competitors, Simon & Schuster will limit how often e-books can be borrowed. Under the pilot system, which begins April 30, libraries can only lend a copy of its e-book to one patron at a time.
Over the past five years, publishers not in the Big Six have vastly expanded their e-book offerings to libraries, while the larger publishers had been more cautious, either providing a smaller selection (Penguin) or no books at all (Macmillan).
But just since January, Macmillan has announced its own pilot program for library e-books and Penguin made all of its e-catalog, not just older releases, available.
"Publishers win by growing their audience and readers win with more e-books to borrow," New York Public Library President Tony Marx said in statement Monday.