NASIG 2010: Let the Patron Drive: Purchase on Demand of E-books

Presenters: Jonathan Nabe, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and Andrea Imre, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

As resources have dwindled over the years, libraries want to make sure every dollar spent is going to things patrons will use. Patron-driven acquisition (PDA) means you’re only buying things that your users want.

With the Coutts MyiLibrary, they have access to over 230,000 titles from more than 100 publishers, but they’ve set up some limitations and parameters (LC class, publication year, price, readership level) to determine which titles will be made available to users for the PDA program. You can select additional title after the initial setup, so the list is constantly being revised and enhanced. And, they were able to upload their holdings to eliminate duplications.

[There are, of course, license issues that you should consider for your local use, as with any electronic resource. eBooks come with different sorts of use concerns than journals, but by now most of us are familiar with them. However, those of us in the session are blessed with a brief overview of these concerns. I recommend doing a literature study if this interests you.]

They opted for a deposit account to cover the purchases, and when a title is purchased, they add a purchase order to the bibliographic record already in the catalog. (Records for available titles in the program are added to the catalog to begin with, and titles are purchased after they have been accessed three times.)

[At this point, my attention waned even further. More interested in hearing about how it’s working for them than about the processes they use to set up and manage it, as I’m familiar with how that’s supposed to work.]

They’ve spent over $54,000 since November 2008 and purchased 470 titles (approx $115/title on average). On average, 95 pages are viewed per purchased title, which is a stat you can’t get from print. Half of the titles have been used after the initial purchase, and over 1,000 titles were accessed once or twice (prior to purchase and not enough to initiate purchase).

Social sciences and engineering/technology are the high users, with music and geography at the low end. Statistically, other librarians have pushed back against PDA more than users, and in their case, the humanities librarian decided this wasn’t a good process and withdrew those titles from the program.

During the same time period, they purchased almost 17,000 print titles, and due to outside factors that delayed purchases 77% of those titles have never circulated. Only 1% circulated more than four times. [Hard to compare the two, since ebooks may be viewed several times by one person as they refer back to it, when a print book only has the checkout stat and no way to count the number of times it is “viewed” in the same way.]

Some issues to consider:

  • DRM (digital rights management) can cause problems with using the books for classroom/course reserves. DRM also often prevents users from downloading the books to preferred portable, desktop, or other ebook readers. There are also problems with incompatible browsers or operating systems.
  • Discovery options also provide challenges. Some publishers are better than other at making their content discoverable through search tools.
  • ILL is non-existent for ebooks. We’ve solved this for ejournals, but ebooks are still a stumbling block for traditional borrowing and lending.
  • There are other ebook purchasing options, and the “big deal” may actually be more cost-effective. They provide the wide access options, but at a lower per-book cost.
  • Archival copies may not be provided, and if it is, there are issues with preservation and access that shift long-term storage from free to an undetermined cost.