Penguin Random House Announces New Library Marketing Initiatives


By Nicole Lamberson

Penguin Random House is working to strengthen its efforts with libraries in a series of moves this month aimed at increasing its already dominant presence.

Library Journal reported that Penguin Random House announced a new Adult Library Marketing Group, fusing Penguin and Random House’s operations. Though the two companies merged in July 2013, adult library marketing efforts have remained separate. President of Sales, Jaci Updike, wrote that by streamlining its marketing operations, Penguin Random House “will be ramping up our already extensive outreach efforts to libraries nationwide with our innovative marketing programs.” The new marketing group will ensure an integrated effort and that the process for libraries will be a smooth transition.

The article noted that libraries will likely see a “stepped-up energy,” and that both companies have had a history of commitment to libraries – Random House “has long been a model for trade publishers in library marketing,” and Penguin brings “far more [books] than its competitors” to the American Library Association’s annual conference.

News of its new marketing group is not the only library related news for Penguin Random House this month. The company announced a new partnership with BiblioCommons to expand its eBook offerings. BiblioCommons describes itself as “the only software vendor to focus exclusively on the online experience of public library patrons.” The agreement will make more than 38,000 titles available to BiblioCommons acquisitions platform. Vice President and Director of Library Marketing and Digital Sales, Sales Operations for Penguin Random House, Skip Dye, stated that working with BiblioCommons helps “public libraries play a new role in the discovery” of their titles and authors.

These steps show a concerted effort by Penguin Random House to continue strengthening its relationship with libraries. It also shows the importance libraries still play for publishers. It’s an essential market in increasing discovery and gaining new readers, and Penguin Random House is making sure to stay ahead of the pack.


La Jolla Library Sets Up Biotech Lab

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

With the rapid changes happening in the literary world, everyone is scrambling to keep up. Libraries, as a public service, want to remain relevant in an increasingly digital age. According to the American Library Association, many libraries offer services such as digital literacy training and assistance with the usage of online government programs.

However, some libraries are thinking a little more out-of-the-box. The La Jolla branch of the San Diego public library has started the first biotech laboratory in a library, called Life Science Collaboratory.

According to the La Jolla branch website, “Qualified volunteers from local biotechnology firms, research institutions and DIY bio-enthusiasts are supplying programs to educate the public about the Life Sciences and encourage civic debate and interest in this revolutionary field.”

This program is part of the library’s Innovation Space, a program that includes 3D-printers, centrifuges, and a DNA analyzing and sequencing tool.

One need not be afraid of picking up any pathogens either. The lab is only a level 1 Biosafety lab, and according to library manager Shaun Briley on The Washington Post’s website, “The chemicals in the cleaning closet are more dangerous.”

Additionally, the lab is only in use when a qualified volunteer is present.

Briley hopes that other libraries will follow this example, not necessarily in Biotech, but in whatever fields happen to be of interest in their local area. “Every community has some focus, something they do in particular, and here it just happens to be biotech,” he said.

The statement the La Jolla branch makes on their site is that, “An enduring tenet of libraries is that an informed public with free and open access to information is a cornerstone of democracy.  Our mission is to inspire lifelong learning, be technology facilitators and guides to the future.”

We can safely assume they are doing just that.

Why Americans love their public libraries

Kind of ironic that in this e-publishing class, I came across this article for this assignment that proves that the printed book — and more so the physical library — is still going strong and is as popular as ever. And while sales of e-books continue to climb and some libraries contemplate closures due to budget cuts (, etc.), the public still loves going to the library!

Evidence to support this statement abounds. A 2013 report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project noted that in the previous decade “every other major institution (government, churches, banks, corporations) has fallen in public esteem except libraries, the military, and first responders.” The study also found that 91 percent of those surveyed over sixteen years old said libraries are “very” or “somewhat” important to their communities, and 98 percent identified their public library experience as “very” or “mostly positive.” Another Pew study found 94 percent of parents believe libraries are important for their children; 84 percent said because libraries develop a love of reading and books.

Along with the print product, libraries have been predicted to go the way of the dinosaurs, but numbers don’t lie —  in 2012, the U.S had more public libraries than ever — 17,219, including branches and bookmobiles. Time to make a new prediction: books and the libraries aren’t going anywhere.

Tom Lawson

A Publishing Student and Her Books: The Universal Public Library Ideal and the Reality

LOCI had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., last weekend with my husband and two kids, and one of my must-sees was the Library of Congress and their copy of one of the original Gutenberg bibles. The Thomas Jefferson building’s main entrance is a massive stone monument that reflects the importance of what it holds inside: the largest library collection in the world. Security was similar at the door to other monuments around the city, with a body scanner and uniformed bag checker. As soon as we got in, I asked for a map and the location of the famous bible, which I imagined was quite difficult to find among the stacks of books, but there it was, right around the corner, behind glass in a wooden case.


After the initial awe faded, I felt kind of silly for wanting to see the real thing; I mean, what this book represented for publishing, religion, and society as a whole was so much more than the physical archive of its pages. Apart from that, what could anyone really do with this ancient bible, encased and enshrined in the basement of the Library of Congress? After a quick look around, I also wondered where all the books were. Apparently, the Library of Congress is a “closed stack system,” where you cannot wander through the stacks, but instead have to request material to look at in one of the “reading rooms” well in advance, and you cannot borrow a book to take home with you.

The Library of Congress has more than 160 million items total in its catalog, adding approximately 12,000 items daily. About 37 million of these are books and other printed materials. The Library of Congress does not have a program to digitize its books, but it has digitized a large collection of photographs, letters, and newspapers. To compare, Google Books currently has more than 30 million books scanned into its digital archive, only 7 million less than the Library of Congress’ physical book holdings, but this gap has probably narrowed since the last count.

Considering the fact that for all intents and purposes, the material at the Library of Congress is fully searchable but items are not freely accessible to most people, and that the same is true of most items in the Google Books library, there is not a big difference between the two at the moment. Readers are still locked out from content unless they pay for it in the marketplace, but are able to see glimmers of information through snippets and metadata. It is safe to say that Google, a private for-profit organization, now owns the largest library in the world, or soon will.

Many of the libraries of the world have holdings that are meant for preservation, to be protected and reserved for use by those who have the credentials, funding, or sheer good luck to be located nearby and be able to access them. However, a digital universal public library would potentially open access to all library holdings to anyone with the Internet. The ideal is technologically possible, but legal roadblocks from copyright (which the Library of Congress administers in the United States) have made most library holdings unavailable for online reproduction.

Why is the U.S. government stockpiling books in the Library of Congress, without even attempting to make them available to the public through digitization, when its mission (after providing for the needs of Congress) is to educate and provide resources to the public? Why is Google adding full-text digital books to its databases without immediate compensation, when its primary mission is to make money? The answers are not easy to find, but considering what happened to the world’s former largest library at Alexandria, it is good to have a digital backup. Who has control of these resources is another matter, which is increasingly the mega corporations. And because Google’s primary source of revenue comes from advertisements placed on content on the Internet, ebooks would be an ideal location for product placement and ads, especially when book readers spend much more time with long-form content than with a webpage or short article.

When the largest provider of ebooks to public libraries in the United States, OverDrive, consistently routes library patrons to to retrieve their digital books, and they must have an Amazon account to access this feature, the company that deliberately sets prices for ebooks lower than publishers can sustainably charge is validated. If the patron likes the book and would like to purchase it after taking it out from the library, he or she will return to Amazon. Not only this, but all of Amazon’s products and advertisements appear next to the requested book’s download button. Although it would be nice if library services could remain immune to the commodification and marketing found in most aspects of life these days, it seems likely that the most efficient way to get information in the future will come from corporate providers with profit as their goal.

Before leaving the Library of Congress, we stopped by another exhibit located nearby the bibles, showing old maps of the United States before the states’ borders were fully formed. Pennsylvania stretched straight out past the Ohio River and kind of trailed off to the west without ending. That openness and potential is much like the new frontier of digital technology, one that is just beginning to find its boundaries and organization.

by Mary Le Rouge

Tapping into the Burgeoning World of Information


Information today is transparent and voluminous, yet these attributes create their own problems. An article on quotes Edward Owusu-Ansah, dean of the Cheng Library of William Paterson University, saying that today “it’s more complicated to search through sources to see what’s reliable.” Enter the librarians at William Paterson University, who act as quality control for researchers and are personally offering students everything from research guidance to writing workshops.

As print books are fading off the shelves, university libraries today are becoming spaces for collaboration, group work, and a sense of community. Recent renovations at the Sojourner Truth Library at SUNY New Paltz created “more open study space, more technology, and more gallery space.”

Sojourner Truth also delves “into every branch of technology—from social media to the creation of videos. They stream classic film and documentary videos, as well as music.

In these new ways, “college libraries are evolving to provide an enhanced environment that meets the challenge of providing access and the means to tap into the burgeoning world of information.”


By Peg Sandkam

Playboy Responds to Hyperabundance

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that starting in March 2016, Playboy will bid adieu to nude, or at least to fully-nude. The magazine isn’t abandoning its characteristic presentation of women in provocative poses, but it is responding to the hyperabundance of pornography by redirecting their focus to the quality content they’ve always had.

The internet has allowed for the explosive growth of pornographic content, and there are plenty of sites that are organizing and offering pornography with little to no obstacle. Playboy could have responded to this disruptive change as their competitors have—by trying to trump in print what the internet offers via video. However, this strategy failed for one of Playboy’s primary competitors, Penthouse. Instead, Playboy is turning its focus to other the content for which it has also established authority—its reporting, articles, interviews, and other editorial text. Take a moment to peruse the comments of The New York Times article, and you’ll see comments from readers claiming that they read Playboy for their articles. Personally, I own a copy of The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, an anthology of science fiction shorts that have been featured in the magazine by authors such as Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, et al. It’s a very well-curated collection by Alice Turner, Playboy’s science fiction editor.

Playboy has to keep their magazine alive when this segment is generally struggling. While the magazine is profitable globally, it is losing $3 million a year in the United States. Let’s consider the possibility that removing fully nude photographs could also be a new marketing strategy by appealing to a whole new audience—women. Playboy currently makes most of its money from merchandise. If you do a quick search for merchandise with the famous Playboy bunny logo, how much of it appears to be marketed towards women? Belly button rings and jewelry, dazzling watches and cell phone cases, pajama sets, pink lawn chairs… I could go on. Clearly, they have the attention of women who subsequently want attention for displaying a logo traditionally associated with being “boys-only.” While you might be able to easily recall seeing a girl lying on her Playboy bunny beach towel with a matching bikini set, you’ll not likely recall seeing said girl with the latest issue in her hands. It’s still taboo for a lady to read a nudie mag even if the articles are genuinely interesting. As Playboy re-brands as a non-pornographic publication, will women become more comfortable picking up a copy or possibly even proudly displaying their copy in-hand?

By Heather Williams

Amazon Sues People who Charge $5 for Fake Reviews

Have you ever found yourself annoyed with glowing online reviews that don’t seem real?

Amazon is, too. And now the retailers is taking the extraordinary step of suing the users who post them.

In a lawsuit filed on Friday, Amazon asked a Washington state court to grant damages against a group of people who it says posted phony 5-star reviews in exchange for $5. In some cases, the company used undercover agents to conduct transactions with the fake reviewers.

As the Amazon complaint explains, the fake reviewers ran their scheme through a work-for-site site called Fiverr. They allegedly used hundreds of fake Amazon account names and IP addresses in order to pepper the site with fake reviews. The text of the reviews are typically supplied by the people who hired them.

“You know the your [sic] product better than me. So please provide your product review, it will be better,” said one such reviewer cited in the complaint.

Amazon also claims that some defendants abused its “Amazon Verified Purchaser” program, which displays a tag to show a reviewer has actually purchased the product in question:

“[They] provide these “Verified Reviews” only if the reviewers obtain the product for free, in addition to receiving payment for the “review.” In at least one instance, the seller of a “Verified Review” was willing to receive an empty envelope …simply to create a shipping record to .. avoid detection by Amazon.”

The lawsuit comes after Amazon filed a similar complaint in April against a website called “” that offered fake endorsements.

The new case, however, does not specify the identities of the defendants, but instead names anonymous individuals known as “John Does 1-1114.” Amazon tells the court it will add their names at a later date once the company identifies who they are (presumably by asking internet providers to identify their IP addresses).

So why does Amazon claim it’s not lawful to post fake reviews in the first place? According to the complaint, the reviewers are liable for breach of contract since, as Amazon customers, they are bound by the company’s terms of service. Amazon also claims the fake reviews are unfair and deceptive under Washington law, and amount to unlawful interference with third-party contracts.

While the company is seeking damages and an injunction against the fake reviewers, it’s unclear if Amazon will actually see this through to the end–or if it’s just a salvo to suggest that the reviewers to knock it off. Notably, the company did not name the Amazon sellers who hired them in the first place. Under the company’s legal arguments, those sellers would be liable, too.

Here’s a copy of the complaint, which was first reported by Geekwire. I’ve underlined some of the relevant bits.

Amazon Complaint Re Reviews

[This article, by Jeff John Roberts, appeared in Fortune’s Tech section on 10/19/15]