eBook Ecosystem 2016: State of the Art, Five Years On – Summary of Program

Ebook Ecosystem 2016: State of the Art, Five Years On

For the second consecutive year, YBP sponsored a special meeting of academic library consortia and publishers at the ALA Annual Conference.  They invited select representatives of each community to discuss the special issues regarding the creation, distribution, models and formats of ebooks in consortia.   Below is a summary of the presentations and discussion from the program.  Mark Kendall and Ann-Marie Breaux from YBP took notes, other commentary is from Michael Zeoli.

Patron-Driven Acquisitions have exploded and many consortia have organized pilot programs; there have been many developments among publishers in terms of making front list titles available electronically and offering new collection options; and the vendors have been developing in tandem with libraries and publishers to support new collecting channels and services, integrating these with traditional ones.

While there has been a whirlwind of developments in 2011, all of us would certainly concur with Robert Darnton’s admonitions:

“The future is digital.” True enough, but misleading. In 10, 20, or 50 years, the information environment will be overwhelmingly digital, but the prevalence of electronic communication does not mean that printed material will cease to be important. Research in the relatively new discipline of book history has demonstrated that new modes of communication do not displace old ones, at least not in the short run. Manuscript publishing actually expanded after Gutenberg and continued to thrive for the next three centuries.” [5 Myths About the ‘Information Age’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 2011]

It is absolutely critical that discussion and initiatives broaden and reach beyond traditional parochial boundaries of publishers talking with publishers, libraries talking with libraries, and leadership left to a narrow group of brave souls.  New meetings such as ‘The Future of the Book’ conference held at Florida State University (http://www.lib.fsu.edu/thefutureofthebook/program.html), and the ‘Beyond Print’ meeting with Triangle Research Libraries Network (http://www.trln.org/BeyondPrint/) are excellent examples of organizations extending the discussion and search for solutions to various constituents of our shared information ecosystem.  We would value highly any comments and criticism you care to share with us.  We fully intend to carry on these discussions and create new initiatives, as is already happening.

The Notes

– Welcome from Mark Kendall, Sr. VP Sales, YBP

– Opening comments from Tony Horava, AUL Collections, University of Ottawa

The theme of the meeting, ‘Ebook Ecosystem 2016, State of the Art Five Years On,’ was Tony’s creation.  We’d highly recommend recent articles by Tony including ‘Collection Management and Sustainability in the Digital Age’ in Against the Grain 23 (1).  For a fuller bibliography, please see: http://www.arts.uottawa.ca/eng/thorava.html

– Tony is both a futurist and a pragmatist with deep interest and experience in building collections.  He is very concerned about our ability to break molds that bind rather than serve the scholarly community and would ultimately risk marginalizing important components of the information ecosystem.  Tony proposed a SWOT analysis of the how books would be created, priced, supplied, used and assessed in five years time, reminding us that “five years is a lifetime.”  Tony was inspired by the ARL 2030 Scenarios.

Contact Tony Horava: thorava@uottawa.ca

Julia Gammon, Head of Acquisitions, University of Akron; Chair, Collection Building Task Force, OhioLINK; Acting Marketing Manager, University of Akron Press

Julie discussed the considerations of OhioLINK in their recent *ebook ITN* (in progress), set in the context of OhioLINK’s extensive work over more than a decade in cooperative collection development initiatives.  Julie added a bit of color to Tony’s concept of ‘five years on’ describing the conditions we are working under as a murky swamp complete with alligators.  Among key points were:

–          Usage will play a key role in purchasing decisions

–          Vendors, eAggregators and Patron/Demand-driven acquisitions will play a key role in building collections in the future

–          Vendors are important owing to services they provide to compensate for lack of library staff

–          Implored content and service providers to adopt the SERU license model

Contact Julia Gammon: jgammon@uakron.edu

Michael Levine-Clark, Collections Librarian, Associate Professor, University of Denver

Michael has written and presented extensively on ebooks and particularly on demand-driven collection models in recent years.  Key points he made were:

–          Building collections in digital format and primarily through DDA (Demand-driven Acquisitions) is essential.

–          Libraries will continue to buy some packages, but in general will not be a preferred method

–          eBooks need to work on all platforms, i.e. not be limited by proprietary organization

–          digital and print simultaneous availability is crucial (libraries will not be buying both print and digital in most cases, and need to be free to acquire content in their preferred format).

–          Minimal DRM

–          Flexible pricing including Short-term Loan (STL)/leasing options (current ILL of print offers no revenue to a publisher, so this represents a new opportunity for publishers and more flexibility for libraries in providing service to patrons).

–          In 2016, print will still be around, but POD will be an essential mechanism for delivering print.

–          Critical that eContent be integrated in a seamless workflow with print

Some of his recent presentations can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/MichaelLevineClark

And a partial bibliography at:


Contact Michael Levine-Clark: michael.levine-clark@du.edu

Kim Steinle, Library Relations Manager, Duke University Press

Kim presented the Duke University Press experience.  Duke is releasing print and e simultaneously and on multiple platforms (not just their own ‘ebrary’ platform), meeting many library expectations in terms of flexibility.  One of her most interesting points was that sales of their annual package have not met expectations.  This would merit more discussion in the context of much current discussion of ‘The Big Deal.’  We’ll certainly include this in any future discussion.

Contact Kim Steinle: ksteinle@dukeupress.edu

Michael Zeoli, Director Global Consortia Sales, YBP Library Services

Michael’s key point was a plea for more partnering as we try to unravel the issues we share, quoting David Barbar from an OhioLINK publication from 1997:

Partnerships are essential to success.  For the OhioLINK project to succeed, expertise is required on computer systems, information management, and on the content managed. This is more than OhioLINK can provide on its own given the need to support all forms of content for any conceivable subject area. (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/april97/04barber.html)

Contact Michael Zeoli:  mzeoli@ybp.com

Leila Salisbury, Director, University of Mississippi Press

Leila gave a thoughtful and inspiring summation to our meeting.  Leila is a leader in the university press community (MaryKatherine Callaway, President of AAUP and Director at the Louisiana State University Press, was also a participant in our discussion), and offered the memorable comment that “hostility flourishes in a vacuum of understanding.”  She described how what is being demanded of university presses and of university libraries are two sides of the same coin, and that greater transparency is essential to mover forward each sides support of the scholarly mission.

Contact Leila Salisbury: lsalisbury@ihl.state.ms.us



Given the emphasis on usage in the first two presentations, Lorraine Keelan from Palgrave-Macmillan asked how a library would define usage.  What level of usage would lead a library to believe that an expenditure was worthwhile, e.g. 60%?

It is difficult to generalize about what constitutes usage (various resource types receive different types of usage; fewer accesses doesn’t necessarily mean that the resource is less critical to the library mission).  ‘Impact factors’ as used in the journal world may be a useful new measure (new metrics are needed).

This led to a discussion of the critical importance of discoverability to generate usage.  So, how are publishers working to facilitate usage?  Further, some libraries have greater access to content than others.  The ‘digital divide’ is an important issue and one that consortia can help bridge, especially for smaller libraries.


The librarians threw the question back to the publishers asking if DDA would drive their publishing program.  If so, might academic content be more difficult to publish, i.e. more ‘popular’ content be favored?  The university presses felt that academic content was their mission and format and acquisition models would be unlikely to shape content decisions.  But this did raise a host of other questions, particularly related to the costs of supporting new content delivery models and formats.

Do ebooks cost more to produce and distribute?  The publishers answered unanimously that it does.  They expressed concern over the issue of scalability (both large presses with 400+ years of back files) and new  organizations (to books) such as Project MUSE.

“Some of the publishers view the value of content sold to an institution as distinct from consumer pricing.  One key difference is in the perpetual access model for a library vs.a single DRM-wrapped ebook file to a consumer.  Is it price-gouging to charge more for a title that will be available in perpetuity in a highly flexible and certainly more usable digital format to thousands of students and faculty on a given campus?”

Publishers and vendors tend to view the library as the ultimate buyer of content, when in fact, from  the library perspective, it is their end-user (the patron) who is truly acquiring the content in one way or another.  This is a fundamental difference perhaps in the perspectives of the library vs. publishers/vendors.


Recurring and Non-recurring funds as driver to library purchase decisions.  Many times library can find non-recurring funds.  Recurring funds for annual renewals are becoming more difficult to find and justify due to budgets and inflation.  This makes committing to annual publisher packages problematic, especially as new access models emerge that offer alternatives.


Much concern was expressed that ebooks have so far followed a print book model.  How do we get beyond this?  The problem has been that the journals model has been offered as the only best alternative – and the journal is a form almost as old as the book.  Moving from one old paradigm (itself under attack these days) to another dated paradigm does not move us forward.  There was some notable disagreement among some of the publishers that ebooks are following the print paradigm.

Should access and accessibility be given preeminence over building collections?  This does seem to be the direction of users, but issues related to tenure and to library accreditation, as well as the strength of tradition, pose formidable obstacles.  New revenue models may be the least of the hurdles.

Is new language, new terminology needed to describe the future book?  It is interactive, available on the web and akin to a website at times, and part of a database…  See new ‘books’ published by the University of Tennessee Knoxville library press: http://www.newfoundpress.utk.edu/

Who will take the lead in defining new publishing models, libraries, publishers, or entities outside our narrow ecosystem?


Non-English language ebook availability?  Digital format is an optimal solution to works that have been difficult to find and expensive.  Casalini discussed its new digital platform, including books and journals in Italian, Spanish, French and other languages.  Casalini has been awarded the prestigious Aldo Manuzio Prize for its platform (http://www.against-the-grain.com/2011/03/casalini-libri-awarded-aldo-manuzio-prize-for-the-full-text-collection-editoria-italiana-online/).  Patricia O’Loughlin from Casalini explained that European publishers are conservative in releasing their content in digital formats.

Librarians and publishers thought that there was an opportunity for the aggregators to work with foreign publishers in making content available digitally, particularly in the developing world, e.g. African Book Collective.

What became clear in the first half of our meeting was that the conversation quickly lost sight of *consortial* perspectives.  The 2016 perspective also faded away.  There were 2 general observations made in this regard.  The first was that there are more pressing challenges facing the community and this was a good forum in which to discuss them.  The second was that consortia themselves are changing very rapidly as technology and economics demand new approaches.  Consortia represent a topic that deserves its own focus, perhaps in the context of ICOLC.  Traditionally, consortia have fallen into 3 types: 1) Large ‘Buying Clubs,’ 2) Cooperative Collection Development consortia, and 3) Resellers (often attached to OCLC).  Traditional booksellers focused on the second group and sometimes worked with the first type, e.g. statewide agreements.  With the emergence of large ebook packages, and more recently consortial ebook Approval and DDA options, the first type of consortia have grown in membership and grown in importance to all parts of the ecosystem.  Not only, but they have in a way become a competitor to traditional vendors and eAggregators, and, as one of our attendees passionately stated, a competitor to libraries for control of their budgets and collecting.  But this is not the end of it.  Publishers too have formed consortia.  Oxford and Cambridge are hosting content from an increasing number of presses.  Project MUSE and JSTOR are beginning to host aggregated ebook content.  This is an important topic, but was buried under the more pressing concerns of ‘eBooks 101’ (or ‘1.0’).  Much more needs to be done on this front.

Many thanks for your participation in this meeting (or interest in the case of those who could not attend).  We hope you found this meeting to be a good use of your time.  Looking to the future (but not 2016), we will be pushing forward opportunities for broad discussion and initiatives (some already underway), and look forward to your participation.  We also hope that you will keep us in mind when you are organizing similar discussions.  Someone once wrote that ‘it takes a village.  Indeed it does.  Feel free to share these notes with your fellow villagers.

Have a wonderful summer.

Michael (and Julie and Tony)