ALA Program Summary: E-Elephant in the Room

On Saturday, June 23, 2012 at the ALA conference, several hundred librarians gathered for an interesting discussion on eBook collection development practices.  This ALA Program was a panel discussion featuing eBook collection development practices from both academic and public libraries.  It was organized by Serin Anderson and Christopher Platt. Heather McCormack from Library Journal moderated the discussion.  A summary of the program and presenter contents is below. The slides from all 4 panelists are available here: eBook elephant 06232012Library Journal and ALA both had summary articles of the program as well.

Sue Polanka – Wright State University Libraries

Sue discussed collecting eBooks from a business model perspective.  Selecting content isn’t just content anymore, it’s selecting content in a container, content wrapped in software.  Libraries are purchasing the software, the interface, the DRM, and establishing a relationship with vendors.  She suggested libraries determine what type of collection they want to have first – 1)build a comprehensive collection for the long-term and 2)paying for access to content to serve just-in-time, or 3)hybrid of these.  Depending on the priorities of the library and the content desired, the preferred business model can be selected.  Sometimes though, the content will determine the vendor and business model and libraries have no choice.  Sue showed a chart of various business models ranging left to right: free – open access – locally hosted – locally hosted with DRM – perpetual access – subscription – short term loan/pay-per-use.  As the examples moved from left to right, so too did the increase in DRM on the content and the risk of ongoing access to the content. Sue discussed the challenges of purchasing eBooks from multiple vendors like the differences in interface features, DRM restrictions, number of users, business models, etc.  She provided the background of the OhioLINK consortia program for purchasing eBooks.  The priorities for purchasing titles for the consortia are:  shared access across the consortia, unlimited simultaneous use, and unlimited lifetime use. To that end, the consortia has been buying and locally hosting eBook files from about 6 publishers since 2000.  They host them on open source software which they must maintain on their Electronic Book Center (EBC).  They have about 41,000 titles, usually negotiating with the vendor for the entire front list rather than choose title by title.  Many times, access is negotiated for local hosting as well as the vendor site.  In the last fiscal year (2010-2011) there were 25,000 titles loaded to the EBC and use of these was high.  Less than 4% of the titles were NOT used. OhioLINK is now exploring other eBook purchasing options including working with YBP to set-up approval plans and PDA models for the consortia, similar to the Orbis-Cascade consortia model.

Alene Moroni – King County Library System

Alene discussed how they are budgeting for eBooks. Increased eBook budget by 60% each of the last 3 years.  They have a flat library budget.  How are they paying for the eBooks?  Moved print reference collection funds to eBooks.  She started by designating 10% of the materials budget to eBooks.  The Director suggested they cut the subscription database budget in half and add it to eBooks in order to increase it from 10%.  They are working off of renewal date and canceling databases that have low use. They count database use by “clicks” from their website as a benchmark.  They do this because some vendors aren’t counting use at the same time. They also used a staff survey to determine what staff used the most.  They also looked at the databases by subject and determined how the database served the community needs (early literacy, homework help, professional, etc.).  They prioritized the subject databases according to community need and examined.  Looking at all of these factors combined with cost-per-use helped them to decide what databases to cancel.

Linda Di Biase – University of Washington

Circulation and download numbers are one way to count use, but how else can we evaluate the success of eBooks?  Linda focused then, on evaluation. They do triennial user survey’s, but they aren’t specific enough about eBooks.  The PDA conundrum – letting patrons know what they are doing with PDA skews their results.  She feels this needs to be a stealth activity.  3 Pilot projects.

First – PDA pilot with ebrary, started in July 2010, ended February 2011.  40K dedicated to. 10 activities triggered a purchase (printing, copying, reading # pages, reading for certain amount of time).  Capped at $150 and focused on SS/Hum, pub dates of 2005-2010, didn’t attempt to screen for print duplication.  Was it being used? How was it used?  How did it overlap with print? Couldn’t find out who was using it (patron type for example) or if they were satisfied. ebrary provided weekly purchase/use reports.  They enhanced it with local data (own in print, how many campuses own it, was print copy available at time purchased was triggered, when was last time print circulated).  They posted it weekly on the staff intranet.  Generated monthly reports from use data highest to lowest.  Conclusions:  59% of titles bought were owned in P, but 17% of those weren’t available to be borrowed.  42% were owned in P and available but E was preferred.  Owned titles in both E ad P used subsequently, but no clear correlation, higher than average purchases in history, econ, soc, polisci.

Second – EBL demand driven. $37 budgeted, have spent about $25.  Pub date 2007- present, no attempt to screen for print duplication. They were able to determine similar use data to ebrary, however, they were also able to determine user status and the campus content was used from.

Third – Consortial DDA with EBL.  37 members, 462K collected from members, 16K titles available to pilot from 15 publishers.  $250 price cap, 2009 – present date. 10 STL = purchase of 5 copies for use across the consortia, then all libraries own. Lots of evaluation of the pilot.  Able to get use by library, title, and patron status, publisher, and subject area on a monthly basis.  On average, users of 3 libraries contributed to the 10 STLs which led to eventual purchase.  Looked at use based on discovery options.  Within the consortia, they had 3 different ways to discover it. See http://www.orbiscascade.org/index/demand-driven-acquisitions-pilot for more info. Conclusions:  PDA titles get more use than selector firm orders. 20% of EBL titles ordered by selectors vs. 100% of DDA titles in the same period.  Follow-up study – does the use of those titles increase over time (for either category).  Okay to duplicate P and E if you can afford it.  Many still prefer P and discovery in E may increase interest in P. When they hear from users its usually due to a problem or question.  Evaluation is time consuming but necessary and important.  DDA will continue to be a tool they use to meet information needs (not THE tool, but A tool).

Anne Lee – Free Library of Philadelphia

Focus on PL role and the impact of eBooks and collection development. Are they ephemeral? reactive? proactive? CD policies are not in sync with the reality of eBooks.  Their budget for materials was cut in half recently, so they have lots of limitations on the number of copies they can buy to maintain their holds ratios.  They had to raise from 3 to 5. Her CD decisions are driven by market and access and more.  Her library’s selection policies do not address eBook issues. As they expected, about 72% of the titles they purchase via OverDrive are fiction.  They used to buy a print copy for every E copy they buy, but now some titles are not available in P.  Discovery – they troll the best seller list, use information pushed by vendor.  She provided some examples of sites to discover self-published books.  Kirkus reviews does review self-published titles.  She asked some colleagues what their CD procedures were for eBooks.  Some comments included:  getting familiar authors, hot topics, extra copies and were in BUY mode, buying everything that is available.  Aiming for balance…don’t have access to everything. Some libraries who had just purchased some older titles found they were checked out right away.  Poetry eBooks circulated immediately. They are finding it hard to keep up.  The library is testing the Freading model.  They are early in the program. Some publishers can and do pull out some content and then may put it back.

Anne discussed the digital divide.  In Philadelphia, this means that 40% of their residents do not have internet access at home.  They are aware of the growing smart phone use. They are thinking about how they can respond to this.  They have gone back to their mission to determine how to best purchase content that combines eBooks, databases, and print content to serve all patron types.