JISC Collections staff have spent the last week speaking to e-book publishers and aggregators about the four PDA models that David Kay outlined in his post on 8th January 2013 (below). We were hoping to find out the view from their side about PDA and working with consortia, and to learn some of the realities of how such a set-up could operate, in order to build this into the guidelines for institutions that the EBASS25 project will provide.

We spoke to small, specialist publishers such as Woodhouse; as well as larger players such as Elsevier and Taylor & Francis. On the aggregator side we spoke to Ebrary and 123Doc. All-in-all we spoke to nine different companies, giving us a representative cross-section of the academic e-book marketplace.

We asked them which of the models they found most appealing, and for details of any  PDA models they already use. We also wanted to know how they would handle the day-to-day practicalities of a consortium agreement (in terms of managing orders, invoicing and providing usage statistics, for example.)

All had interesting things to say about the four models, and about their view of e-books in general, and all were happy to help with our research.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Evidence-Based Selection proved popular with the publishers, as it would be relatively straightforward to implement, and guarantees them some upfront payment. Although some pointed to the comparative fairness of the PDA models (in that libraries are paying only for content that is actually being used), there was a general feeling that the mechanics involve a fair amount of work on the publisher’s or aggregator’s part, with no guarantee of return. It was also felt that these models can potentially provide a great deal of content for free before payment triggers are reached, and that some degree of mediation by the library is necessary to control acquisition and spending. Although the EBS model was so popular, it was interesting to learn that only two of the organisations we spoke to currently offer it.

The potential threat posed by e-books to print sales is still a commonly expressed concern, and any consortial agreement that involves shared copies is seen to magnify this. There is also the question of how a single copy shared between several institutions affects the royalty payment paid to authors: not a problem that might occur to  those on the library side perhaps, but clearly a real issue to publishers that can contribute to a general wariness surrounding this sort of agreement.

It should be said, however, that although their opinions varied quite considerably, one thing all our interviewees shared was an enthusiasm for the project, and a willingness to work with institutions in order to be part of any agreements that may come of it.

The companies we interviewed were:

  • 123Doc
  • Cambridge University Press
  • Cengage Learning
  • Ebrary
  • Elsevier
  • Hodder Education
  • Palgrave
  • Taylor & Francis
  • Woodhouse

Full details of all their responses will be published in our final report.

Ben Taplin – Licensing Manager, JISC Collections