Penguin looks to Los Angeles, Cleveland to expand e-book lending

The company launched a pilot program in September and will offer it to more customers in the coming weeks.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
A Kindle with books.
A Kindle with books. Sarah Tew/CNET

Penguin Publishing is loosening its grip a bit in the e-book-lending market.

The company will announce today that it is expanding its e-book lending program to Los Angeles and Cleveland, The New York Times reported. Penguin launched an e-book-lending service to New York public libraries in September. The success of that program has prompted it to expand elsewhere.

Penguin is still keeping a tight hold on its e-books. According to the Times, Penguin sells e-books to public libraries six months after their launch. The e-books can only be lent to one person at a time. At the end of a year, Penguin forces libraries to buy the e-book again if it wants to continue to lend it out. If libraries fail to buy a title again, they can no longer offer it to customers.

Penguin has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with e-book lending over the years. Almost exactly one year ago, the company halted some of its e-book-lending to libraries, saying that it was concerned with security.

"Due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners," Penguin spokeswoman Erica Glass said in a statement at the time.

It was never divulged what sort of security concerns Penguin had.

Still, e-book-lending has long been an issue for publishers. The companies already can't stand that their titles are being offered at a discount in paid e-book stores, like those from Amazon and Apple, but lending adds another wrinkle. By selling a single copy to a library, publishers are effectively losing sales on all of those people who borrow the books.

With this new lending initiative, Penguin has teamed up with a digital book distributor, Baker & Taylor. According to the Times, the Los Angeles County library system, alone, will allow Penguin to reach 4 million people. The company plans to make the service available to folks in Los Angeles and Cleveland in the coming weeks.