and Steven Carrico (Acquisitions Librarian, University of Florida Smathers Libraries,
Box 117007, Gainesville, FL 32611-7007) <[email protected]>
Column Editors’ Note: This column for Against the Grain is devoted to discussing issues affecting library acquisitions, library vendors and the services and products they supply to academic libraries, and the publishing marketplace as a whole. It is an ongoing conversation between a book vendor representative, Robin Champieux, and an academic librarian, Steven Carrico. — RC and SC
Robin: Hello again, Steve! In our last column we touched upon the complicated issue of eBook preservation and long-term access, especially when aggregators are involved. I’d like to use this month’s column to explore this important topic. Currently, as far as I’m aware, a comprehensive eBook preservation solution does not exist. By comprehensive, I mean one that addresses not only technical and legal needs, but also one that addresses the myriad of ways libraries acquire content. CLOCKSS and Portico’s eBook preservation initiatives, for example, do not address aggregator content and collections. Generally, agreements between aggregators and their publisher partners participating in third-party preservation services do not address corresponding library rights. And, there is no standard language to address the use of third-party preservation services within aggregator agreements and licenses. Given this environment, how does your library approach eBook preservation, and what developments would you like to see?
Steve: Mainly our eBook preservation policy revolves around our own content; that is, digitized books from UF collections as offered through our Digital Library Center. Currently the UF libraries have no systematic policy or strategy to archive eBook content purchased from aggregators or publishers, so thousands of eBooks UF “owns” is entirely in the hands of our aggregator or publishers; and if one of the aggregators goes out of business, what happens to the eBooks we’ve purchased and are made available on their platform? It’s a scary thought and makes me think the issue needs to be addressed by my library and soon! Going forward, I suppose it would be beneficial for UF to push for modifications in our eBook license agreements, making archival and preservation an essential piece to the negotiations. I’d be interested in hearing what other academic libraries are doing to establish archives of their eBook content. As an aggregator how do you deal with this issue?
Robin: We try to be proactive, and I believe this to be true of all of aggregators. However, the landscape is complex and can be very time consuming and expensive to navigate. Aggregator agreement and licensing language about preservation must be legally interoperable with the agreements we have with publisher partners. Making minor and major changes to how we facilitate preservation can necessitate negotiation with hundreds of publishers. While it is a highly-competitive marketplace, I do observe an eagerness among the aggregators to collaborate on advancing preservation and creating viable solutions. At the Charleston Conference last year, for example, EBL, Coutts, Portico, and Oxford University Press participated in a session in which some very concrete ideas were generated for integrating and addressing aggregator content within third-party preservation services. That said, those concrete ideas still need to be developed into concrete services. I believe I mentioned in our last column that one of my concerns is that preservation rights and solutions might be leveraged in ways that do not benefit libraries, such as driving eBook sales through particular channels and models. In this sense, the connection between preservation and access becomes even more entwined and immediate. Given what is at stake, I don’t think libraries or aggregators can afford to be passive about eBook preservation.
Steve: Wish I’d caught that session last year — this issue is really big and doesn’t seem to be talked about a lot at either conferences or in the library literature. I hope we see more programs with forums that include eBook preservation and archiving as topics. So how come eBook archiving is so different from the issue of e-journal archiving? And when you say one of your concerns is that preservation solutions might not benefit libraries, I’m reading “additional costs passed to libraries.” Isn’t that always the case even for e-journal archiving, especially for libraries using a third-party service?
Robin: I am not sure eBook archiving is so different from e-journal archiving, but the infrastructure to support e-journal preservation is much more developed. This is not a bad thing, what has been done and what has worked for e-journals can be applied to eBooks and help the library community move faster towards a more complete preservation solution for eBooks. But, that solution needs to fully address how and from whom libraries buy content. For example, the trigger events that qualify content for archival access need to address not just publisher activity, but also aggregator activity. And, to address your concern, I do not think the cost of such a solution should be passed on to libraries. Rather, I believe in a solution in which the cost and support of preservation is distributed across community participants.
Steve: Good to hear! That seems to be one of our column’s prominent themes (or messages): vendors, publishers, and librarians need to work together to make inroads on issues that affect us all, such as developing affordable and sensible long term eBook preservation models. I’d like to see this topic covered more in depth at future library conferences. Speaking of, the 2011 Charleston Library Conference online program is now available and I see that you’re part of a panel presenting on the consortial demand-driven program set up with Orbis-Cascade. That should be interesting — and timely. Multi-library eBook plans are getting a lot of attention from libraries and consortia looking to reduce duplication and share content.
Robin: Yes, thanks for the plug, and you remind me of another important development affecting preservations needs. With content being purchased at the consortial level and in electronic format, traditional, built-in infrastructures that benefit preservation — multiple copies owned by multiple libraries — are not available. Additionally, there are likely new and specific archival access triggers to be considered in a consortial context.
Steven: Whoa, as if putting together a shared or consortial eBook acquisitions plan isn’t challenging enough, let’s roll in the archival issue and really make it complicated! Good luck with your program, and I’ll see you in Charleston.