Charleston 2012: Curating a New World of Publishing

Looking through spy glass by Arild Nybø
“Looking through spy glass” by Arild Nybø

Hypothesis: Rapid publishing output and a wide disparity of publishing sources and formats has made finding the right content at the right time harder for librarians.

Speaker: Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords

Old model of publishing was based on scarcity, with publishers as mediators for everything. Publishers aren’t in the business of publishing books, they are in the business of selling books, so they really focus more on what books they think readers want to read. Ebook self publishing overcomes many of the limitations of traditional publishing.

Users want flexibility. Authors want readers. Libraries want books accessible to anyone, and they deliver readership.

The tools for self publishing are now free and available to anyone around the world. The printing press is now in the cloud. Smashwords will release about 100,000 new books in 2012, and they are hitting best seller lists at major retailers and the New York Times.

How do you curate this flood? Get involved at the beginning. Libraries need to also promote a culture of authorship. Connect local writers with local readers. Give users the option to publish to the library. Emulate the best practices of the major retailers. Readers are the new curators, not publishers.

Smashwords Library Direct is a new service they are offering.

Speaker: Eric Hellman, from Unglue.it

[Missed the first part as I sought a more comfortable seat.]

They look for zero margin distribution solutions by connecting publishers and libraries. They do it by running crowd-funded pledge drive for every book offer, much like Kickstarter. They’ve been around since May 2012.

For example, Oral Literature in Africa was published by Oxford UP in 1970, and it’s now out of print with the rights reverted to the author. The rights holder set a target amount needed to make the ebook available free to anyone. The successful book is published with a Creative Commons license and made available to anyone via archive.org.

Unglue.it verifies that the rights holder really has the rights and that they can create an ebook. The rights holder retains copyright, and the ebook format is neutral. Books are distributed globally, and distribution rights are not restricted to anyone. No DRM is allowed, so the library ebook vendors are having trouble adopting these books.

This is going to take a lot of work to make it happen, if we just sit and watch it won’t. Get involved.

Speaker: Rush Miller, library director at University of Pittsburgh

Why would a library want to become a publisher? It incentivizes the open access model. It provides services that scholars need and value. It builds collaborations with partners around the world. It improves efficiencies and encourages innovation in scholarly communications.

Began by collaborating with the university press, but it focuses more on books and monographs than journals. The library manages several self-archiving repositories, and they got into journal publishing because the OJS platform looked like something they could handle.

They targeted diminishing circulation journals that the university was already invested in (authors, researchers, etc.) and helped them get online to increase their circulation. They did not charge the editors/publishers of the journals to do it, and encouraged them to move to open access.

IL 2012: CULC and eBound

Holbeach e-book marker [old photo]
“Holbeach e-book marker [old photo]” by Paul Stainthorp
Speaker: Ken Roberts

Background: Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) member libraries serve 70% of the Canadian population, and 98% of the circulation of materials. eBound is the Canadian eContent distribution arm for more than 100 Canadian publishers.

Publishers really needed a purchase model, not a licensing model, because their contracts with authors talked about sales. Libraries, on the other hand, preferred a license model. There was also some concern from the publishers that rights would be implemented in the way they were intended. And, they needed a third party partner to find a vendor who could handle the responsibility of housing and mediating the circulation of the ebooks, which is where eBound came in.

The purchase model seems a bit complex, and focuses primarily on the publisher’s back catalog at a very low rate per title ($10) sold in large blocks to the entire system. This addresses the publisher’s concern that the midlist authors aren’t getting exposure in libraries. And, if the circulation is low, the price drops after a period of time. The titles have a “worn out” rate of approximately 40 circulations. Some titles can be purchased at a higher rate for preservation purposes and would be DRM-free.

They expect to roll out the vendor side systems next spring, and once that is settled, then it would be rolled out to CULC members.

ebooks, libraries, and the discount rate

Evolution of Readers
Creative Commons License John Blyberg via Compfight

The other day I was listening to a Planet Money podcast episode, and they were talking about a new-to-me financial term: the discount rate. As they described it, this is “the rate you use to size up future costs.”

This morning I read a blog/essay by cartoonist Dave Kellett (who draws the nerdy-fun comic Sheldon) which argued that ebooks in libraries would be the death of the traditional publishing industry. As he put it, “The internet has shown, again and again, that the average consumer always tends toward the cheaper, faster solution. And all things being equal between delivery systems, there’s no debate which one is more advantageous for the individual: The borrowed copy.”

Not long after reading this essay, I attended a training session by one of our ebook vendors, during which at one point they mentioned that the cost for MUPO books (multiple simultaneous user access; essentially a site-license) as being only 150% of list price, which in their words is a good deal. I held my breath for a moment, as I knew the cost of MUPO had been contentious in internal discussions in the recent past. However, the moment passed without comment.

All of these bits and pieces began churning in my mind until finally I reached a rather shocking to me conclusion: 150% of list price for unlimited simultaneous user access is an amazing deal, particularly now that these ebooks are becoming more functional for the users.

Think about it — for the cost of half of a second copy, any number of our users can view, download, print, copy, and even read the same book at the same time. In the print world, at best you might get four people reading the same copy a book at the same time if you could smoosh together close enough and the font size wasn’t too small. Or, you’d buy multiple copies for class reading assignments that would then end up being discarded when the curriculum changed.

How could I go from thinking that ebooks shouldn’t cost more than print to thinking that MUPO pricing is a good deal? Well, my discount rate changed. When I thought about it from the perspective of copies saved rather than prices increased, it made the cost difference seem less heinous.

ER&L 2012: Does the Use of P-books Impact the Use of E-Books?

sweets & swag
ER&L sweets & swag

Speakers: Michael Levine-Clark & Christopher C. Brown

In Dec 2008, they added all the print and ebooks for university press publisher A, and the duplication is primarily in the frontlist. They did the same for an STM publisher B in Jan 2009.

The have gathered circ data that is compiled annually. Comparing ebooks and print books is like comparing apples and oranges. pBook checkouts are for an extended period of time, and we have no way of knowing how many times they view a chapter or copy a page, the measures of ebook uses.

What a cataloger thinks a title is and what a vendor thinks a title is are two different things. How do you merge use and circ data if the comparison points may vary? Solution was to create an ISBN9, by stripping away the first three numbers of ISBN13 and the last number of the ISBN10, which worked pretty well.

Publisher A had about a third of the ebook titles used, but publisher B had only about 2% used. For print, two thirds of Publisher A titles were used and a little over a third of Publisher B were used.

The two most heavily used ebooks from the UP were probably used for a course. The print books were only checked out a few times, but there were thousands of uses for the e. For publisher B, they were used less but with no print circ. For the top two print, the UP ebook was used some, but not even as many as the checkouts, and for the STM print books, the e wasn’t touched. Overall, there was a high rate of use for both formats of a single title, I think (need to study the slides a little more).

They saw increased checkouts of print books over the time period, but it is inconclusive and could be related to the volume of titles purchased. There isn’t a clear impact of e on p or p on e use, but there does seem to be a connection, since when both formats are used, the rate is higher.

Might there be differences by subject or date? What sort of measure of time in a book can we look at? How does discovery play in?

Questions/Comments:
Date & time of usage rather than one year might tell more of a story.

Agree about the discoverability challenge, and have encouraged them to put in chapter level data in their catalog records to create their own discovery with the MARC record. Full text searching in eBrary is great, but get it in the catalog along with the pbooks.

Did you consider the format of the ebook? Some publishers give PDF chapter downloads, which may account for lower use of Publisher B.

What about ILLs? They get included in the circ stats and aren’t separated.

How much of Chris’s time was spent on this? Hard to tell. Was ongoing over time as other things took priority.

How will this affect your collection development practices moving forward? Trying to give users a choice of format.

ER&L 2012: Consortia On Trial — In Defense of the Shared Ebook

Hi, how are you?
an Austin classic

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs, Duke & TRLN

The consortia TRLN began in the 1930’s as a shared collection development strategy for print materials. They share a catalog, print repository, approval vendor database, and they collaborate on large and individual purchases. This was really easy in the print world. As of 2006, only 8% of print books were duplicated across all three schools (Duke, NCSU, & UNC-CH).

Then ebooks arrived. And duplication began to grow exponentially. Many of the collections can’t be lent to the consortia libraries, and as a result, everyone is having to buy copies rather than relying on the shared collections of the past.

Speaker: Michael Zeoli, YBP

YBP has seen a small increase in ebooks purchased by academic libraries, and a much larger decrease in the purchase of print books, despite acquiring Blackwell last year. This is true of the TRLN consoritum as well.

About 20% of the top 24 publishers are not working with PDA or consortia, and about half that do are not doing both. Zeoli tries to meet with publishers and show them the data that it’s in their best interest to make ebooks available at the same time as print, and that they need to also be include in PDA and consortia arrangements.

Consortias want PDA, but not all the content is available. Ebook aggregators have some solutions, but missing the workflow components. Publisher role is focused on content, not workflow. PDA alone for consortia is a disincentive for publishers, it ignores practical integration of appropriate strategies and tools, and it’s a headache for technical staff.

A hybrid model might look like Oxford University Press. There are digital collections, but not everything is available that way, so you need options for single-title purchases through several models. This requires the consortium, the book seller, and the publisher to work together.

Speaker: Rebecca Seger, OUP

The publishers see many challenges, not the least of which is the continued reliance on print books in the humanities and social sciences, although there is a demand for both formats. Platforms are not set up to enable sharing of ebooks, and would require a significant investment in time and resources to implement.

They have done a pilot program with MARLI to provide access to both the OUP platform and the books they do not host but make available through eBrary. [Sorry — not sure how this turned out — got distracted by a work email query. They’ll be presenting results at Charleston.]

Questions:
How do MARLI institutions represent access for the one copy housed at NYU? Can download through Oxford site. YBP can provide them. The challenge is for the books that appear on eBrary a month later, so they are using a match number to connect the new URL with the old record.

And more questions. I keep zoning out during this part of the presentations. Sorry.