Magazine article Information Outlook

Practical E-Book Solutions for Information Professionals: E-Book Acquisition Models Offer Different Benefits and Pose Different Challenges, and No Single Model May Fit Your Organization's Needs

Magazine article Information Outlook

Practical E-Book Solutions for Information Professionals: E-Book Acquisition Models Offer Different Benefits and Pose Different Challenges, and No Single Model May Fit Your Organization's Needs

Article excerpt

Corporate libraries and information centers are essential resources for the organizations they serve and are responsible for providing access to relevant, accurate (and, if necessary, peer-reviewed) resources as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Choosing the access model(s) best suited to an organization can be a complicated process because of complex corporate structures, tight budgets, diverse patron needs, and other issues.

The Technical Information Center (TIC), my employer's corporate library and information center, recently began transitioning toward providing access to electronic books (e-books). After examining several e-book services, the TIC adopted a hybrid approach involving a combination of access models. This approach should provide a high degree of flexibility to meet the diverse needs of our staff while adhering to budgetary and licensing constraints.

Challenges to E-book Access

The TIC began its effort to incorporate e-books in 2012 in response to patrons' demands for mobile solutions to their technical information needs. Meeting these demands proved to be quite challenging. First, our business unit is generally responsible for funding its own administrative and support services. As a result, the TIC's limited budget lacks the flexibility to invest in new resources without adversely affecting our current portfolio of services.

In addition, the TIC serves an extremely diverse patron base, making it difficult to identify e-book resources appropriate for everyone's needs. Our business unit serves as the primary research and development facility for the corporation and employs many of its leading scientists and engineers. With a staff of around 450 employees, our facility performs research and other work in optics, materials, the information sciences, imaging, oil and gas, electronics and more.

Because of the many types of research-oriented work performed here, the information needs of TIC patrons are extremely broad, and they shift with each project. This has complicated efforts to identify e-book platforms that are not only cost-effective and easily accessible, but also comprehensive enough to meet patrons' needs.

Choosing an Access Model

TIC staff considered several e-book access models as part of our process to identify services that would effectively meet the needs of our patrons. Initially, we purchased e-books on an individual basis for patrons requiring immediate access to reference texts for their work, but this proved to be extremely problematic--each e-book was restricted to the user for whom it was purchased and could not be shared due to copyright restrictions and the lack of an effective distribution platform. Consequently, the TIC had to find a different solution.

James Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein, in a recent paper in Online Searcher (2013), note that the most common e-book acquisition models include "patron-driven acquisition (open all titles and buy only what is used), perpetual access (pay once now, keep it forever), subscription (usually via aggregators), and buy hard copy/e-book as a package." The services examined by the TIC fell, generally, into three of these categories.

Patron-driven acquisition (PDA) is a cost-effective method that typically involves paying a modest platform fee to a provider of e-books and creating a deposit account. This opens up an entire collection of e-books to patrons and enables them to purchase only those titles that are used. An item is "purchased" when users click on a title and read a certain number of pages or if they directly request to purchase it.

In theory, PDA is an excellent tool, but it suffers from inadequate controls--patrons may inadvertently purchase an e-book if given too much freedom, but if access is too restrictive, they may not get a proper sense of the value of a certain title. Additionally, PDA models require diligence on the part of administrators to ensure adequate funding is maintained in the deposit account. …

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