The 26th November EBASS25 workshop for M25 members was attended by 30 representatives from 19 institutions, with a number of others on the reserve list. Clearly we need to go for a larger venue for the concluding event in Monday 4th February!

After a project update from John Tuck (RHUL and M25 Chair) and Dominic Tate (EBASS25 project manager), the meeting got down to the business of considering three broad types of e-Book acquisition models and how they might apply in a consortium setting such as M25 (or subgroups thereof).

The Models

Anna Grigson (formerly RHUL, now of LSE) introduced her EBASS25 study of consortium arrangements existing elsewhere. The study, which is shortly to be published by the project, identifies four models:

  • Purchase
  • Rental (aka short-loan)
  • Usage-based
  • Evidence-based

These models were then discussed one by one in small groups, with rental and usage-based (which have many similarities) being combined due to time constraints. This generated feedback and clarification questions in four areas:

Collection / Service Benefits   Collection / Service Drawbacks 
Financial Risk / Reward – Institution acting alone  Financial Risk / Reward – Consortium deal 

In considering the models, delegates were encouraged to think about the underlying drivers and motivations both for libraries and for suppliers that might have a strong bearing on the model and the associated licensing, pricing and purchase triggers:

  • Access – Who will access the resources and where?
  • Value – Why would a library or a supplier adopt an approach?

The models discussed were as follows:

PDA Model 1 – Purchaseillustrated by an Arizona consortium

Three institutions are in this consortium and collectively they pay 2.5 times the standard price for each book purchased (if 6 were in the consortium the multiplier would be 5 times the standard price, etc).

Users can see a wide selection of e-books and three uses convert an e-book into a purchased title. In the case of the Arizona consortium they split the cost 40% / 40% / 20% (based on the relative size of the 3 institutions). The M25 consortium (or a sub-set of it) could split the costs according to such as JISC Band or FTE.

Key metrics in this model are

  • the “multiplier price” for the consortium purchase
  • the number of “uses” which trigger a purchase
  • the mechanism for redistributing the costs across the consortium

PDA Model – Usage basedused by JISC Collections for ‘e-Books for FE’

Users have access to a wide collection of books, and a small payment is made for each use of each e-book. A cap is set, and when these “micro payments” reach that cap, they flip to the title becoming purchased with no further payment.

In the FE trail, the usage was so evenly spread that not many titles flipped to purchase. However, it did provide wide access to a collection and use was made across all the titles. The project did not require distribution of the costs  – but they could be redistributed on actual usage, requiring some upfront payment into a fund to kick it off.

Key metrics in this model are

  • the “micro payment charges” for each use
  • the “cap” which flips a book to “purchased” status
  • the mechanism for redistributing the costs (e.g. JISC banding)

PDA Model – Evidence-based

This is the sort of model that publishers like Elsevier and Springer have used whereby a collection is made available to an institution (or consortium) for a period such as a year for a small fixed lease fee. Based on the actual usage (or on any basis they see fit), they make their purchase decisions.

The consortium breadth may be attractive to a publisher with a large collection. Perhaps one could negotiate a discounted fee for the rental period – but there is not much leverage for further discounts for the consortium unless based on the number of institutions buying a particular book. However, the model is low risk and each member of the consortium has autonomy to make its own purchase decisions.

The metrics in this model are

  • the rental fee for the entire collection
  • the subsequent purchase price of books


We concluded the workshop with a show of hands to establish a ‘gut response’ to two headline questions that would help direct ongoing project efforts.

My preferred PDA model would be

  • Purchase                    2
  • Usage-based              2
  • Evidence-based        26

My collection focus would be

  • Breadth – Offer a broad popular selection          4
  • Depth – Tailor subject specialist selections       12
  • Depth – Open up a long tail of titles to choice    14

Next Steps for the project, leading to the February event

The workshop highlighted the value of the following steps

  • The team will devise a short survey to capture responses across M25 members on motivations, options and associated issues, building on the concluding questions highlighted above
  • The project will produce a short guidance paper covering institutional motivations and access requirements that should be weighed against any PDA option and the associated terms
  • The University of Kingston will lead the supporting work package on the systems and management implications of offering PDA options.