The 13th annual eBooks conference was held at the University of Strathclyde on 5 September 2014, featuring talks from public and academic libraries as well as publishers. The conference hashtag was #happilyeverafter and one of the main areas of discussion was whether – with the development of e-readers and improvements in functionality – it would be “happily ever after” for the e-book.
Keynote speaker Gerald Leitner of EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations) raised some interesting points about the growing trend for e-books and the legal ramifications of e-book licensing. He argued that the practice of publishers deciding which texts go into particular collection bundles represented a threat to freedom of choice and could restrict the rights of citizens to free access to information.
With the public largely unaware of this issue, libraries need to get better at communicating their concerns and pressing for political and judicial engagement on the subject. Further information on EBLIDA’s Right to e-Read campaign is available on their website.
Collaboration and communication were two major themes of the conference. Libraries need to have a positive relationship with publishers and suppliers to ensure that their users can enjoy the full benefits of access to electronic and printed books.
This was emphasised by Richard Parsons, Wendy Walker and Jeremy Upton of SCURL (Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries) in their talk on eCollection development for Scotland. This focused on the lessons learned by SCURL in creating a consortium of Scottish universities to purchase e-books, with the aim of allowing equal access to resources for all higher education students and staff.
At the beginning of 2014, SCURL secured five deals with publishers (Palgrave, Elsevier, Wiley, Sage and Oxford University Press) to make approximately 30,000 Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free e-books available to Scottish universities.
The group are currently evaluating the first year’s progress but the lessons learned so far included:
- Think about timing – January is not a good time to launch as students are halfway through their academic year!
- Make resource discovery a central feature – emphasise the importance of MARC records and resource discovery tools in your tender document.
- Single payments for multiple deals can bring greater efficiencies and cost savings – the group found that the institutional cost for access to 28,000 e-books equated to the cost of 2,200 print books, with the huge benefit of the e-books being available across all institution.
- Streamline activity – use one organisation to manage payments; work on a shared set of common data; use the same authentication model.
I was struck by the potential for other consortia to do something similar to benefit all users within a region. The opportunity to provide enhanced and improved access to e-books – not just in higher education but in public libraries too – is incredibly exciting. By putting collaboration and communication at the forefront of our collection strategies and our negotiations with publishers and vendors we have the chance to really enhance the benefits that e-books offer.
Rachel Birds, Electronic Resources Assistant, University of Manchester Library