This chapter focuses on the fresh challenges to acquisitions budgets posed by the new kinds of products brought to market in the last few years and those expected soon.
E-books (defined broadly to include monographs, reference tools, and primary source materials) open the discussion of growth areas in e-publishing. Increasing availability of comprehensive digital journal back files are described next, followed by a look at the growing tendency of publishers to aggregate and integrate ever larger large amounts of material.
Despite discouraging indicators of libraries' ability to absorb new costs, vendors have continued, as they must, to acquire new properties and build new products.
Now that e-journals are firmly established, e-books are coming into their own as the inevitable new frontier in collection development in all kinds of libraries. Publishers are offering a growing number of digital scholarly and trade monographs, reference materials, and an expanding array of historical texts.
Until now e-books have gained acceptance in libraries more slowly than e-journals. Attachment to books as physical objects and as artifacts contributes to resistance to the digital form.
Librarians recognize that readers interact with books differently from magazines or journals. Collection builders need to account for the various purposes books serve as they start to broaden selection activities.
Some questions to ask include:
* In an academic library, should titles be selected with the idea that large parts will be read online (or offline) by individual users--or primarily because they will support teaching with links from course websites or online reserves?
* Should the library focus mainly on e-books as reference tools used for quick lookup of more or less factual information?
* Can print tools be canceled?
* Scholarly research in all fields (even the sciences) draws on monographic content as well as journal articles, but are e-book acquisitions more important in some fields than in others?
* In public libraries e-books will be selected for cover-to-cover reading most likely for downloading to hand-held devices and also for reference purposes. Which e-books will people really read in bed or at the beach?
* What devices will be the most popular choices for readers--laptops, PDAs, or mobile phones--and with which software packages? Which vendor offers the best content and user service options?
Librarians from all types of libraries will first have to decide what kinds of e-books they want to buy and then figure out the best way to do it.
In 2001, when the e-book was young, the California Digital Library established a task force to carry out an in-depth study of how this format might fit into academic library collections.
The report concluded that e-books were not ready for prime time since publishers had not yet delivered the following:
* Intelligent pricing models that would allow for ownership (but not at a premium price), simultaneous use by multiple patrons, and the replacement of superseded issues at reasonable cost.
* A critical mass of titles beyond the basic undergraduate level and in subject areas besides the early concentrations in business, reference, and information technology
* Features that extend the reach of the printed book beyond mere replication in electronic form: for example, addition of multimedia, full-text searching, markup, reference linking, and so on
* Content independent of proprietary hardware and software
* Adequate rights for downloading, printing, copying, and sharing
* Ability to be integrated into normal acquisitions processes (1)
Many of the desirable characteristics the CDL study identified also are important for public libraries. In addition, publics want books in e-format by the most-read authors, multiple-copy access to best sellers when they are most in demand, and downloadable audio books.
Key events over the last few years have shaped the development of e-books and led to substantial progress in meeting these requirements as well as new possibilities for integrating e-books into collections.
At the end of the 1990s, business consultants, the media, and the newborn dot.com producers of e-book readers combined to produce exaggerated predictions of the dawning of a new age of digital books. The publicity caught the attention of the electronic consumer and awakened interest among public librarians.
Early-adopter, risk-taking libraries implemented e-book programs, despite the formidable obstacles these programs presented, either to bring users what they were asking for or to introduce what librarians thought might become a popular new service.
These early adopters purchased (now discontinued) readers, followed laborious procedures to download titles to put on them, loaded these proprietary formats on different kinds of devices, and cataloged both the content and the readers. (2)
These pioneering public library experiments led to improved understanding of library needs on the vendor side and, together with convergence of reader technologies, have in time led to significant improvements in the prospects for more general e-book adoption.
NetLibrary-I as Catalyst
Although a small band of brave, hard-working librarians were willing to test the waters on their own, netLibrary deserves the credit for galvanizing widespread experimentation with e-books through enticing publishers to experiment and aggressively promoting the new medium to libraries.
The original company (referred to here as netLibrary-I) was founded in 1998 and quickly amassed $100 million in venture capital, including contributions from publishers such as McGraw-Hill and ABC-CLIO.
The netLibrary product was launched in March 1999 with the aim of becoming the biggest name in e-books. Marketing to libraries was initially aimed primarily at consortia.
To help create brand recognition, the company supplied cloth briefcases bearing its logo to registrants at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in 2000. Thousands of librarians, who had never thought about e-books before, were ready to try them out when their consortia received netLibrary proposals. And a surprising number still carry the bags providing free advertising for netLibrary.
Brand building and rapid expansion taxed NetLibrary's resources, however, and a short 14 months after the book bag promotion, netLibrary's royalty checks to publishers were bouncing and the company went looking for a buyer.
Customers began to worry about whether they would continue to have access to the books they had purchased. Although netLibrary promised to provide an archive, the choice of CD ROM as the potential storage medium would have posed problems for libraries.
Furthermore, publishers might have objected, since they had not agreed to have their books distributed this way. OCLC's acquisition of the company assured subscribers would continue to have access to what they had purchased.
In both its early incarnation and now, as part of OCLC, netLibrary has been a high-profile force in the acceptance of e-books in libraries. Its practices also have underscored a number of e-book implementation issues--besides how to assure that libraries wanting it can have long-term access to the e-books they buy.
E-books are poised for growth
Though e-books have progressed in fits and starts, momentum is building for them to become a significant focus of acquisitions activity in the immediate future. The Open eBook Forum (OeBF), a trade and standards organization for the industry, has stepped up efforts to promote sales to libraries, especially public libraries.
OeBF has formed a publisher-librarian interest group that holds regular conference call meetings. The forum also hosted a conference in March 2004 on "E-books in the Public Library."
E-books also were a hot topic at the June 2004 meeting of the American Association of University Presses and at least three program meetings were devoted to them later in the month at the ALA annual conference.
In addition, EBooks Corp., an online book distributor, introduced a new e-book platform at the ALA convention: EBL, the Ebook Library.
The accelerating progress of e-book development is driven by improved technologies, increased readiness on the part of readers, and the same commercial forces that fueled the growth of e-journals--publishers seeking market expansion and competitive advantage by leveraging their assets in a fast-paced industry.
With the American e-journal market possibly beginning to reach the saturation point, e-books offer publishers another outlet for content and possibly a way to produce new combinations based on other types of materials they may produce such as journals, reference works, or primary sources. In addition, standard works, long out of print but still relevant to current research topics, can be resurrected at relatively low cost to find new buyers.
Librarians will find they have multiple issues and options to sort out as they begin to think more seriously about what they might now want to do about e-books. "Libraries have almost too many choices," says a longtime follower of the marketplace. "Tough decisions about how and when to integrate e-books into collections will keep us all busy for the next several years." (3)
E-books acquired by academic libraries from e-book aggregators (at least up until now) have not typically been downloaded to hand-held devices but are accessed on the Web via platforms whose overriding purpose is digital rights management.
Browsing, viewing, downloading, and printing are governed by the business rules agreed on between the aggregator and the publisher. Publishers who sell e-books direct to libraries and serve them from their own web sites, of course, can enforce whatever access and use restrictions they choose.
Platforms also are constructed so as to present books either primarily as individual titles to be read (or sampled extensively) or as fully searchable databases whose main purpose is to help users find chunks of information on specific topics.
NetLibrary leans more toward the individual-title model; ebrary, and the reference book products to be discussed in a later section, function more like databases.
A key initial question for libraries then is which of these models makes sense for which types of books. Other considerations include:
* Whether to select subject-based bundles or to acquire e-books title-by-title
* If selection is title-by-title, whether to purchase both the print and the electronic version. (Though still not always the case, more titles are being published simultaneously in both formats and it is somewhat easier to integrate e-book purchase into normal acquisitions routines.)
* Whether to expand traditional selection criteria to new types of books, for example, textbooks
* Whether to rent the book for a limited period of time or to buy perpetual access. If perpetual access is desired, whether to pay the required fee up front or over a period of time, when these two options are available.
* Whether access and use rights are acceptable: How much text can be viewed, copied, pasted, or printed? Is reserve, course pack, or e-learning system use allowed? Is downloading for offline reading permitted?
* How well designed are search and navigation features?
* Are MARC records available?
* Does content beyond the printed text add real value?
* Is a significant amount of material missing due to rights restrictions?
Discussion of how these factors play out in choosing major e-monograph products follows.
E-book aggregators and e-book databases
NetLibrary still claims the lion's share of library e-book business, listing 7,800 libraries as customers. After purchasing the faltering company in 2002, OCLC moved immediately to be more responsive to library and user needs, adding more up-to-date content to the collection.
Maintenance fees also were raised to support the infrastructure for perpetual access. NetLibrary now offers 40,000-plus volumes from almost 500 publishers.
Despite the seeming ubiquity of netLibrary collections in libraries, selectors have never liked the product's one-user, one-book delivery scheme. As with print volumes, if someone checks out a book, no one else can use it until it is returned.
Like netLibrary's founders, OCLC has maintained that this model is what attracts high-quality content from major publishers, who still have fears of wholesale downloading and plummeting print sales.
Librarians have tirelessly pointed out the irrationality of replicating the traditional book circulation model in the networked environment. Recently launched publisher-run plans as well as other aggregators (such as ebrary) employ multiuser, site-based subscription models.
NetLibrary seems at last to be attending to the market pressure for a move away from their standard one-book, one-user model especially by cooperating with interested publishers to offer new options. For example, a specialized set of Judaic Studies materials is available as a bundled collection with unlimited access based on a weighted FTE-based pricing model.
NetLibrary also is glad to develop publisher-based collections with partners that have robust, broadly based lists or are strong in particular subject areas (such as the McGraw-Hill business collection).
OCLC tried subscription and simultaneous user-based models with the NetLibrary Information Technology Center. The six-month experiment, launched in 2004, provided the standard one-book/one-user pricing for selections from either a Core Collection of 800 titles or an Expanded Collection of 1,200. In addition, libraries had two other options for the Core Collection: a purchase model with either two or five simultaneous users or a subscription model. (4)
Libraries would need to purchase new editions of software manuals and other time-sensitive materials as they became available. Though librarians have a strong interest in online access to up-to-date information technology content, the introduction of this high-priced collection during a particularly bad budget year for libraries hurt market uptake. After the six-month experiment, OCLC took the collection off the market.
The IT Center (and the Reference Center discussed below) are part of a new direction for netLibrary. OCLC has consolidated all of its e-content sales under netLibrary. Librarians can expect to see more subject collections such as the IT Center that also will bring together full-text journal articles and other content owned or licensed by OCLC. These collections will be available as separate segments on the website with customized functionality.
In the meantime, netLibrary has no plans to deviate from the one-user/one-book mode of access for its standard collection. Renegotiation of many publisher agreements would be required to make a change like this and, presumably a redesign of the platform as well--both are expensive undertakings.
In the current model, users can print or copy only one page at a time. Libraries that want to offer offline reading can pay a pass-through fee for the Adobe Content Server.
NetLibrary is in the preliminary stages of consideration of use of its material in e-learning systems and is not yet actively working on the issue of authorizing reserves or course pack access. Delivering this kind of enhanced functionality requires establishment of agreements and mechanisms to return revenue to the publishers--more renegotiation, more rights management software redesign.
Christopher Warnock, founder and CEO of ebrary, emphasizes that, though librarians have "mis-shelved" the company as an "e-book provider," "... in fact, ebrary has never been in the eBook business." What Warnock means is that ebrary is a content aggregator and technology platform provider rather than an e-book distributor.
Though book titles in the collection are accessible via free MARC records in a library's OPAC and can be read as books, …