Libraries and e-book provision: the purchasing paradigm

As is probably the case with most academic libraries, the University of Manchester Library acquires e-books in three main ways:

  1. Buying individual e-book titles through intermediaries
  2. Purchasing bundled e-book packages from publishers
  3. Patron driven acquisition, in which our library users place direct orders for the e-books they need

We are finding that none of these models are entirely satisfactory for a variety of reasons.

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Buying individual titles through intermediaries may sometimes be our only option but the process tends to be cumbersome and the pricing models are confusingly opaque. Even more frustrating is that publishers occasionally withdraw titles from their e-book portfolio so our users are again left without access to the books they need.

Purchasing large ‘bundles’ of e-books from publishers for a set fee or an annual subscription tends to mean that we are paying for a high quantity of titles that our students don’t want or need and which will rarely – if ever – be used. Of course, some of these titles will be of value to our researchers but too often we are paying for content in the manner of contestants on Baggage Battles, relying on luck and intuition when placing bids for unseen material.

Patron driven acquisition (PDA) is an approach many libraries are now using and the attraction is obvious – rather than trying to guess what our readers will want to access, we give them direct control by allowing them to choose and order items themselves and get instant access to the text. This works well when the books they require are available electronically, but having used PDA for a while we know that this is often not the case.

As librarians, we need to take on board what our users are telling us about core text provision. As customers, we need to be much better at challenging the status quo in the e-book market and be much more explicit about what we are willing to pay for.

photo credit: I like via photopin cc

2 thoughts on “Libraries and e-book provision: the purchasing paradigm

  1. Great summary of the situation.
    I would like to see some discussion on the potential for the etextbook chapter rental model through companies like VitalSource and Kortext and specifically how that has the potential for tying in with library provision, reading list integration and copyright scanning.
    There are some big challenges there!

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comments Sarah. If you would like to write a post about some of the challenges you mention we would be very happy to receive it! In terms of rental model you mention, this is pretty much what we are looking at with our current e-book pilots, though focusing on the whole book not chapters. Basically purchasing the book for the duration of the module and ideally using a different acquitison model than 1-1 which is both not realistic or sustainable.
      Dominic Broadhurst

      Like

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