Probably the nonsense about “friction” means more to Penguin than I think, but only a little bit more. They know that all their newest titles–Signet, I suspect is the one most checked-out on ebook devices–are all available for free download from the web in a matter of seconds. But I don’t think they like the disintermediation, with people seeing “Overdrive” everywhere. They’re already dealing with Amazon, a firm that is at least technically competent.
Overdrive’s got a fascinating business model. For years, given ebook demand, they were largely beneficiaries of a wealth transfer, between themselves and taxpayers in a given library district. Their exorbitant fees–I mean, bandwidth, really? I’m giving away 10 times as many books as they are in a given month, and these days I’m nothing compared to Hadrien, let alone Gutenberg–meant that Overdrive didn’t much have to care about compensating publishers or pushing ebooks.
Even after Kindle and iPad launched, Overdrive’s content wasn’t able to be used on those devices. BlueFire, which syncs reasonably well with Overdrive services, came roughly a year after iPad, Overdrive for Kindle just this summer/fall? Meanwhile, Overdrive collected its fees.
I suspect Penguin sees little benefit to itself in supporting Overdrive’s business model any further, particularly given the Amazon arrangement.
The more interesting question is: Penguin’s new partner, assuming one emerges. 3M is fascinating, but I don’t know how much of a reach they’re gonna have. Ingram’s another that also offers ebooks to libraries, and I’d hoped to see more from their CoreSource initiative, but haven’t yet. The Ebooks Corporation is still around is well. Overdrive, despite its fees, despite librarian anger, really does have kind of a lock on the market.
Unless, of course, a 3M or an Ingram, maybe Blio, which is still alive, turns around and launches itself, with one of several of the Big Six (who of course will be receiving far better terms than Overdrive is offering.)
Penguin, already dealing with Amazon, may not want another digital behemoth, but they really better announce that new partner soon if they’re serious.