Charleston Marriott Courtyard, November 6, 2017
by Rebecca Lenzini (President, The Charleston Company)
As the website for this symposium noted, “For the past two years attendees of the Charleston Conference have heard about The Charlotte Initiative for Permanent Acquisition of E-books, by Academic Libraries the Andrew W. Mellon funded research grant designed to study the current state of eBooks in the academic market.” http://charlotteinitiative.uncc.edu/
The two-year project is now coming to a close, with the final report due in December 2017. Participants of the grant are sharing their findings, with the goal of helping to continue the conversations begun during the investigations. As part of that effort, members of the Project Team offered a free symposium to all Charleston Conference attendees on November 6, 2017, at the Marriott Courtyard. The symposium presented overview findings from the Environmental Scan Research, as well as Publisher and Vendor Perspectives, and highlights from the four research team findings.
Charles Hamaker, the project’s Initial Principal Investigator, kicked off the afternoon by reminding the audience of the original goals of the project which were to example three core principles proposed for eBook licenses:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.
He noted that the project team and working group included a mix of publishers, consortia and libraries, with 26 members participating http://charlotteinitiative.uncc.edu/ci/project_team. Among Chuck’s take-aways, often referenced during the afternoon, was the need to “name names” as well as the need to stop “talking past each other” among the various constituencies.
Following Chuck, October Ivins, Project Consultant for the grant, noted that two additional topics — ILL and Course Use — had been added to the original “core principles” being studied. She described the iterative process used during the investigation, which combined surveys with interviews. Talking about the publisher survey (conducted from August 2016-April 2017), she was pleased to report that 66 of 162 lengthy surveys were in fact completed. Results showed good support for “no DRM,” unlimited simultaneous users, and perpetual access. On the added topic of ILL, however, only 17% showed support. Publishers also noted that Course Selected books represent 80% of revenue and therefore may not be open for more lenient policies.
John Sherer, Director of the UNC Press, was next up and reminded members in attendance that an Ithaka study on the cost of publishing scholarly monographs has stated that each book represents an expected loss of $20,000. He also reminded us that 85-90% of publisher sales are still print based. Sherer finds the concept of “prefunding” now under investigation by the AAU/ARL/AAUP cooperative to be worth following. He also proposed a “radical” idea, in which all university press books would be available for access for a reasonable fee (X) and where that fee, with a “kicker” (X++) would allow ownership of high use items. With enough participation from libraries, the dollar value of X could be affordable.
Though he was not a member of the grant’s working groups, Michael Zeoli, who handles Content Development & Partner Relations for GOBI, presented a fascinating series of slides illustrating book sales and trends based on data from 27 eBook platforms served by GOBI. Among his observations were that eBook collections are on the rise as expected but that the coverage among the collections is quite uneven, primarily due to copyright differences between various providers and their publisher agreements. He also reported that DDA as a percent of total sales has increased dramatically, from 10% in 2012 to 28% in 2017.
Following a break, a series of “Shotgun Highlights and Findings” were offered by members of the research teams and covered the following topics:
- Licensing Principles, Theresa Liedtka (University of Tennessee-Chatanooga) and Rebecca Seger (Oxford University Press)
- Course Use, Liz Siler (Collection Development Librarian, UNC Charlotte) and Kelly Denzer (Electronic Resources Librarian, Davidson College)
- Platforms & Preservation, Kate Davis (Assistant Director, Scholars Portal)
- User Experience, Alison Bradley (Collection Development Librarian, Davidson College)
My favorite personal take-away from these reports was the observation that one benefit of the entire investigation was a greater understanding of issues from each other’s points of view and that all involved wanted to continue the conversations and discussions. Completely in the spirit of the Charleston Conference!