ALA welcomes Penguin Random House’s expanded library access to e-books and audiobooks

For Immediate Release
Wed, 03/18/2020


Shawnda Hines

Assistant Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office

American Library Association

(202) 628-8410

Publisher adjusts pricing model for digital content sales to libraries

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Library Association (ALA) welcomes the decision by Penguin Random House (PRH) to add new temporary pricing options for digital content purchased by school and public libraries. 

“By offering more flexible terms of sale and use, PRH is making it easier for libraries to support our communities in a period of unprecedented need for at-home reading and learning materials,” said ALA Senior Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Alan Inouye. “Libraries need more flexibility to meet changing demands, particularly when some patrons are sheltering at home and some library buildings are temporarily closed to the public.”  

Under its current pricing model, PRH allows libraries to purchase a two-year license for its e-book titles. Libraries loan e-books to library cardholders one checkout at a time, just as with a print copy. For e-books, the company is now offering a one-year term for 50% of the price of the existing two-year term license. Additionally, libraries now may pay per circulation, at a price of 10% of the two-year term price. PRH has made the similar changes for its downloadable audiobooks. 

While PRH’s new licensing options do not decrease prices, they do provide considerably more flexible terms. And they also recognize the role libraries play as partners in the reading ecosystem. 

“Without access to print collections,” continued Inouye, “communities are relying on their libraries to be there for them online. PRH’s move shows that they are willing to work with readers and with the libraries who create readers.”  

PRH also announced that teachers, librarians and booksellers may stream story times and other read-aloud experiences, within provided guidelines, for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these uses might be permitted under copyright law, but the PRH announcement obviates the need to make a fair use determination.