SPEC Kit 313: E-book Collections  · 13
Unlike print monographs, the e-book selection
process is closely tied to vendor options. Adding to
the content decision process (e.g., is this title a good
fit for our collection), many factors can impact the
ultimate e-book purchase decision (e.g., the ability to
put chapters on course reserve, DRM restrictions, cost
of title, cost of hosting). With the lack of a standard
purchase agreement for e-books, each vendor contract
must be reviewed carefully. As one respondent put it,
“Any selector can select an e-book, but if the [vendor]
model is inappropriate the purchase will not happen.”
In addition to anytime, anywhere access, e-books
offer libraries an opportunity to experiment with
patron-initiated selection in a relatively controlled
environment. In one scenario, patrons choose the
e-books by selecting links that have been loaded into
the catalog. After a pre-determined number of uses,
the items are automatically purchased and retained in
the catalog. The links for items not “touched” are then
deleted. Many libraries value the immediate delivery
aspect of this arrangement while finding that their
usage statistics for these materials tend to be higher
than usage of those selected by traditional means.
Deselection does not figure as much of an issue
at this time, largely because e-books are relatively
young and require no shelf space. Some collections
offer a set percentage of front-line titles, automatically
dropping the older, less used titles to make room for
the new. This process helps to alleviate the issue of old
editions cluttering the results and possibly confusing
or misleading the patron.
With regard to acquisition methods, 63 respon-
dents (86%) bought collections/bundles direct from
publishers. Sixty-two (85%) made title-by-title pur-
chases from an aggregator while 62 bought title-by-ti-
tle from a publisher. On the other end of the spectrum,
only 29 libraries buy e-books through approval plans.
More libraries prefer to own content than to lease
it, with the exceptions being titles that are frequently
updated or with rapidly changing subject matter. One
concern surfacing in this section of the survey is that
e-book collections might turn into serial purchases
with budget ramifications in future years. Libraries
also prefer to link to content hosted elsewhere rath-
er than to build and maintain the infrastructure to
mount it locally. The greatest concern expressed in
this section is perpetual access to the content bought,
followed by licensing issues.
In the section asking specifically what issues
would present a deal breaker in buying e-books, the
most common answer was, again, no long term ac-
cess or preservation measures, followed by restrictive
licensing or DRM issues. Sub-par MARC records, pro-
prietary software, excessive cost/high hosting fees,
individual user registration, restrictions on printing,
and ILL were also listed.
According to data on e-book holdings from the 2007–
2008 ARL supplementary statistics survey, the average
e-book collection at the 110 reporting libraries contains
294,000 e-books. At the 94 libraries that track separate
statistics, the average e-book expenditures ($321,458)
per library for 2007–2008 represent approximately 11%
of monograph expenditures ($3,047,171). This percent-
age shows the relatively cautious approach to e-books
in the past ten years.
Only 12% of our survey respondents (8 of 67) in-
dicated that the library has a separate budget line
dedicated to e-book purchases and all but one of those
indicates using re-allocated funds rather than new
monies for e-books. Most e-books hosted off-site carry
a continuing hosting fee in addition to the cost of
the item, creating a further impact on budgets and
budget planning. Where print monograph purchases
were a one-time disbursement of funds, Acquisitions
departments must now also track the continuation of
the hosting fees from year to year.
Discovery and Educational Activities
Most of the responding libraries include e-books in
their catalogs and also provide Web pages dedicated
to finding e-books. Many have enabled search filtering
by e-book in their OPACs. In addition, more than half
of the libraries provide cross linking from licensed
To promote e-books to patrons, 48% of the re-
spondents have featured e-books in their newslet-
ters. Others have news announcements, new title
lists, or blogs that highlight new e-book acquisitions.
Comments indicate that e-book education is part of
bibliographer outreach activities and regular reference
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