As of Monday, July 1, 2013, publishers Penguin and Random House have officially merged into one entity to now be known as Penguin Random House (I personally would have preferred Random Penguin House, but they didn’t ask my opinion). According to The Associated Press, this merger “creates the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.” The former chairman and CEO of Random House, Markus Dohle, will be the CEO of Penguin Random House. In a statement on July 1st, Dohle stated, “Together we will give our authors unprecedented resources to help them reach global audiences – and we will provide readers with unparalleled diversity and choice for future reading. Connecting authors and readers is, and will be, at the heart of all we strive to accomplish together.”
What does this mean to me? One thing – more eBooks at the library. Out of the Big Six publishers (now to be the Big Five), only three publishing houses have made their entire eBook catalogs available to libraries for purchase – and Random House happened to be one of these publishers. Currently, eBooks published by Penguin are subject to ridiculous restrictions: titles purchased before February, 2012 are still available through libraries that use the Overdrive eBook platform, but new titles and bestsellers are available only to a limited number of libraries through a pilot program with two somewhat uncommon eBook platforms.
Is it possible that this merger means Random House will exercise its influence upon Penguin to make its eBooks more readily available to libraries? Oh, I certainly hope so! The cold shoulder publishers have shown libraries in the past regarding eBooks has long been a point of contention for library staffers and patrons alike. Historically, publishers have supposedly been concerned about the financial side of things, and the sales they might be losing by allowing eBooks to be loaned out instead of requiring them to only be available via purchase. This is a ridiculous claim, however, when statistics have long shown that library users are much more apt to purchase books or books from a series that they originally discovered within a library. There is no reason for this to be any different with eBooks.
I truly hope that Markus Dohle is ready to put his money where his mouth is and bring Penguin Random House into the future (present?) of eBooks as a major media platform. We love our Kindles, our Nooks, and our other eReaders. And now that tablets are so commonplace, as well as the many eReader apps for smartphones, no one is immune to the ease and accessibility of eBooks. This novelty idea that so many thought would fade is only getting bigger and bigger, and it’s not going to go away. Publishing houses’ only option is to move forward with readers and give us what we need and want – and for many of us, that is more access to eBooks at the library. Give it up, Big Guys – it’s long past time.