Monthly Archives: February 2016

And now for something completely different… well slightly

Balancing the e-books

Why did we do it?

Our previous e-book pilots have been conducted using the VitalSource platform; plenty of features, an e-book for the student to keep and good analytics for staff – but with cost implications to match.

This year we ran a small number of pilots using Wiley texts, securing institutional access to the titles via Proquest (EBL) rather than VitalSource, in order to investigate an alternative method of providing access at a lower unit cost.


Price; it is much cheaper paying for institutional access based on student numbers rather than paying on the basis of 1-2-1 model, providing a copy of the text for each student. Crucially, you know the price up front, so it’s easier to budget.

Institutional access; meant we were providing access for all our users rather than just to those on a particular unit/module, thereby adding to our collection.

Platform familiarity; the EBL platform may currently be more familiar to our students as it is similar to those of other aggregator platforms (although this could also prove a drawback if previous experiences have been poor!)

Administration; the work involved for the Library during set-up was reduced, with no complex user statistics to unpick, payments to be made on a scheduled basis, less need for training and support.

Alternative model; we needed to test an alternative model (not based on usage and via VitalSource)

VLE integration; can be added to Blackboard as hyperlink, but not fully embedded as with VitalSource


Download and printing restrictions.

Limited collaborative functionality.

Limited usage analytics; this was a definite downside, limiting the comparable data we can use to assess the relative take-up of the Wiley textbooks, and useable information we could provide our academic staff with.

VLE integration; doesn’t fully embed within the VLE.

No access in perpetuity to individual; not providing students with their own copy to keep in perpetuity.

What do we want to find out?

We want to look at what effect the difference in platform has on usage/uptake, and on the user experience.  Do the bells and whistles and the provision of a ‘copy of your own to keep’ actually matter to the students (as we are paying more for this!)?

Will the restrictions on what you can do with the text from a tutor’s perspective(less emphasis on the collaborative element or embedding sections within the VLE) affect their experience, and the impact it has on their teaching?

We are increasingly finding that teaching staff are particularly interested in the more granular usage data provided on how their students are reading , which is a key to the work we are doing with VitalSource on their beta statistics dashboard. So we will need to assess whether the limited usage statistics provided on this alternative platform for our Wiley titles significantly limits the benefits for our teaching staff.

Olivia Walsby, University of Manchester Library

photo credit: DorkyMum via flickr (license)

Different service, same broken model

broken model

Part of the problem with the digitisation of book chapters and journal articles is that there are lots of restrictions on the amount that can be copied digitally. Under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence, universities can digitise one whole chapter of a book, or 5%, whichever is the greater.  As part of the negotiations for the new licence that will come into effect in 2016 the CLA are considering extending the amount to 10%.  The other alternative is to use the relatively new service that the CLA have set up for universities to purchase a second chapter from a work, when one chapter has already been digitised for a specific module.

The new service began in summer 2015 and is formally entitled the ‘Second Extract Permissions Service’.  Here at The University of Manchester Library we are regularly asked for additional chapters of the same work to be digitised – and up until now compliance with the licence meant we had to refuse.  So far, so good!

The difference is that for each second chapter, there is a charge based on a ‘per page, per student’ pricing model.  The ‘per page’ price is set by the publisher and can vary.

Although a nominal sum had been set aside to allow for a limited amount of second extract digitisation, a desktop exercise was carried out to assess how much the use of this service might actually cost.  Using 80 authentic requests for second chapters, a member of the Library’s taught-course digitisation team used the permissions service website to calculate the actual costs.  The result was quite a surprise – if we had gone ahead, the 80 requests would have cost a cool £91,000.  The most expensive single chapter was over £4000, based on a large student head-count (400), high page price (20p) and high number of pages (50+).  From a work published by Ashgate…  Page prices varied, from 10p per page to 60p per page.

During the negotiations to develop the second extract service, the CLA were pressed to accept a flat-fee approach, which would probably have achieved a greater uptake of the service.  As with e-book suppliers, a 1-1 pricing model was insisted upon.  They could have accepted that not every student on a course would have read the chapter that been digitised – would 50% have been more appropriate?

As a result, we’ll be looking long and hard at the price before we go down the route of digitising second chapters!

Martin Snelling, University of Manchester Library

photo credit: Josh Miller via flickr (license)