M25/South East I (London)

Our new web pages can be found at – http://www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/KnowledgeBasePlus/Related-Services-and-Projects/jisc-co-design-programme/eBooks-recommendations/

Venue: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Date: Friday 29 November, 2013


  • Robin Armstrong-Viner (Kent)
  • Irene Bittles (Royal Holloway)
  • Elizabeth Charles (Birkbeck)
  • Pamela Duncan (Anglia Ruskin)
  • Klara Finnimore (King’s)
  • Chris Manning (LSTHM)
  • Simon O’Leary (City)
  • Catherine O’Sullivan (St Mary’s)
  • Gavin Phillips (Imperial)
  • Catherine Richardson (Birkbeck)
  • Ann Rossiter (SCONUL)
  • Non Scanltebury (Open University)
  • Antonella Yarnold (City)

1 – Selection

Market trends

  • The group reflected on the ‘monopolistic’ character of the market and supply chain behaviours which might be represented as unethical; it was suggested that RLUK, SCONUL, Jisc should work together to address the market issues.
  • These practices coincide with providers increasingly going direct to lecturers and users (e.g. Pearson is not interested in dealing with the library).
  • In these respects the role of the library and the value of its wider collection is potentially being sidelined.

Content availability

  • Availability remains a huge issue
  • Lack of desire to digitise things that are ‘old’ but not yet out of copyright
  • Required titles are often not ‘institutionally licensable’
  • What is needed for ‘core reading’, including test books, is a particular problem
  • Just because you can buy an e-book personally doesn’t mean that it is available for the institution to buy
  • Time delays are imposed between print and e-book publication for no good reason; Palgrave credited for policy to publish print and ‘e’ at the same time

Selection factors

  • ‘Big Deals’ mean that you may only want one title out of a package but aggregators will not sell single title access, preferring to drive institutions to a subscription model
  • Factors driving specific choices – e.g. high number of students with accessibility issues on the course, ability to put in the VLE
  • Library Management System choices impact on ability to take up agreements or work with particular suppliers – e.g. Alma works well with EBL

Identifying your options

  • There are issues with knowing cost and availability of items
  • Interpretation and experience play a big part
  • If we all contributed to WorldCat then we’d get a better feel for availability
  • The SFX eBook knowledgebase is good


  • Direct from publishers is much better than from aggregators – faster, better UX, range of devices (e.g. Kindle)
  • Procurement frameworks push libraries towards aggregators (e.g. LUPC)
  • The library might prefer to buy the publisher copy (e.g. for more relaxed DRM) – but ends up being forced to purchase inferior product from aggregator or not purchasing the e-book at all
  • Furthermore libraries need to leverage their investment in ebook agreements, licensing and associated workflows
  • Licence agreements at the individual item level are very time consuming

‘Free’ content

  • The challenge is whether you de-value your own offering by ‘flooding’ the catalogue with resources – but this applies to paid collections as well (e.g. EEBO)
  • Need UK arrangements for such as Hathi
  • Note potential of Knowledge Unlatched – http://www.knowledgeunlatched.org

2 – Administration

Licence information

  • Buying individual books is problematic if you need to sign a licence per book
  • Aggregators enforce publisher requirements – and publishers can introduce changes (which can be passed onto the institutions) at any point
  • We are small fish but it is a global problem
  • These factors are even more critical if the move is away from aggregators

System capabilities

  • Using aggregators enables consistent workflows – e.g. EDI, MARC ingest
  • Sometimes the records load takes longer than the PDA agreement runs
  • Some need to pass through the LMS before pushing to the discovery layer to ensure quality display
  • Authentication issues are no different from other e-resources

New editions

  • Publisher not updating the subscribing library or updating to the new edition without the library being told
  • Sometimes titles vary between editions so are no longer discoverable

3 – Usage & Assessment

  • When making arguments around activity, usage data absolutely crucial
  • Some publishers do not share the data
  • There is a critical gap in terms of the user element of usage via Ezproxy, etc
  • Assessment of availability is in reality complaint driven

4 – User Experience


  • Users come with a variety of expectations and experience of e-books in the consumer market, which was not the case with journals
  • The popular idea of an e-book is ‘like Amazon’
  • Surprises include expecting to download, e-books being unlike e-journals, limits on simultaneous uses, turn away from direct access on publisher site
  • Palgrave represents good practice – allow downloads, printing, etc.
  • For some a PDF would solve most issues – however, ‘reflowability’ is important
  • Researchers represent a mixed picture, perhaps not being studied proactively

Preference for print?

  • There is a sense that e-journals are good, e-books are bad
  • E-books are sometimes seen as ‘last resort’
  • However people do use poor quality e-books because they have to, as the only way of accessing the item, etc.


  • The OU applies stringent accessibility standards
  • Huge amount of local work takes place to transform materials to be accessible
  • Publishers are responsive for re-journals but not books

Resources not books

  • Suppliers want to move beyond ‘the book’ to a ‘resource’ view
  • Pearson CourseSmart allows customisation and repackaging by academics
  • There is also pressure to move away from VLE
  • Publishers assume users are looking for interactivity and social working

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • Availability of key titles as institutionally licensable
  • The pros and cons of aggregators – workflows versus use experience
  • This is a fundamentally unsatisfactory space
  • The role of the library in the evolving e-book ecosystem

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