The American Library Association has weighed in on Penguin's dispute with Amazon's Kindle library lending program, calling on the publisher to restore access to its books to library patrons. Penguin and Amazon are in dispute over the terms of sale and lending for Penguin titles, but Penguin's response has been to order Amazon to lock down the ebooks that libraries acquired — using their precious and dwindling collections budgets — so that patrons can no longer check them out (Update: Amazon says Penguin and Overdrive, the e-book lending service, took the action without Amazon's involvement. See below).
The fact that Amazon is capable of doing (or allowing) this — the fact that books can be revoked after they're sold — is a vivid demonstration of the inevitably disastrous consequences of building censorship tools into devices.
"Penguin Group's recent action to limit access to new e-book titles to libraries has serious ramifications. The issue for library patrons is loss of access to books, period. Once again, readers are the losers.
"If Penguin has an issue with Amazon, we ask that they deal with Amazon directly and not hold libraries hostage to a conflict of business models.
"This situation is one more log thrown onto the fire of libraries' abilities to provide access to books – in this case titles they've already purchased. Penguin should restore access for library patrons now."
Update: Amazon's Andrew Herdener writes in to say the revocation was not the result of a dispute between Penguin and Amazon, as reported by the ALA. Instead, he says, the action was taken by Penguin and Overdrive, the service that provides library e-book loans for the Kindle platform, without Amazon's involvement. — Rob, 6:10 p.m.
"This has nothing to do with terms between Amazon and Penguin. This decision was not ours, and we did not make any changes in our service (the change, a surprise to us, came from Penguin and Overdrive)"
"Amazon made no changes to its backend — none. The arrangement for public library lending is between Overdrive and the publishers. Overdrive acquires the rights from publishers like Penguin to loan books to library patrons. Overdrive chose to stop the service that lends the Penguin books to Kindle owners."