RLI 280 11
E-Book Licensing and Research Libraries—Negotiating
Principles and Price in an Emerging Market
Charles B. Lowry, ARL Executive Director
Julia C. Blixrud, ARL Assistant Executive Director, Scholarly Communication
RL actively began a licensing effort in the fall of 2010. Members of the Association had
expressed interest that ARL find ways to positively influence the scholarly content
marketplace; emerging e-book markets were identified as the area in which to begin, but
with the proviso that success would lead to similar efforts for other content. ARL especially wanted to
ensure that the emerging market and access structures developed for e-books would serve the needs
and support the values of the research and academic library community. Members of the Association
did not want to repeat the license restrictions found in e-journal agreements that they are now trying
to renegotiate. While price matters, especially as budgets continue to be constrained, another primary
driver for ARL’s e-book activities was the need to identify specific principles that would be especially
important to research libraries in the acquisition of electronic resources, determine the content that
could first be acquired using those principles, and develop a strategy through which the work could be
accomplished. Some ARL libraries have developed advocacy and values statements about e-books—see
the accompanying sidebar at the end of this article.
E-book task forces and consultants recommended and the ARL Board agreed that a project to license
e-books from university presses be given the highest priority.1 The market was relatively new and ARL
members are often closely aligned with university presses at their institutions. University presses were
beginning to develop models for individual and aggregated e-book strategies. A collective ARL effort
would provide a way to shape the licensing terms, business models, and technical platforms that would
be mutually beneficial to libraries and to presses. Since ARL did not want to provide new infrastructure
to negotiate member license agreements, a critical piece of the project included the identification of an
agent to conduct that work on behalf of interested members.
More importantly, ARL developed a set of evaluation requirements that included technical
specifications and licensing rights required by research libraries.2 The agent was required to use
these “Detailed Evaluation Requirements and Desirables” (a.k.a. “ARL E-Book Requirements”) when
negotiating the e-book content licenses.3 In order to determine the rights terms and provisions ARL
members might require for e-book content, existing licensing principles and documents were examined.
Since there were no general principles for e-book licensing available when the project began, some
principles were drawn from best practices in license packages for e-journals. Consultants and task force
members supplied language for other principles based on local licenses or developed language through
consensus. Legal expertise was sought for some principles. When referencing copyright, both the US and
Canadian acts are referenced since ARL membership is located in both countries. There was a general
recognition throughout negotiations that some requirements would be attenuated by technology limits
of vendor platforms. ARL sought accommodation to meet these in initial contracts, while pressing for
technical modifications that would allow closer conformity to the principles it sought to advance.
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