April 7 – May 2, 2014
Librarians are inundated with the choices available to them when
selecting which platforms to purchase to host their ebook collections.
Some ebook platforms serve primarily as tools for lending ebooks to
patrons; others serve as research tools for students and faculty. Some
are available directly from publishers; others come from aggregators
and distributors who amass content from disparate sources. Some
provide broad coverage of subjects and are suitable for all libraries;
others target niche markets with subject-specific content.
Librarians need to keep up with the proliferation of ebook platforms.
As library vendors continue to experiment with business models,
consolidate content, and merge with competitors, librarians need to
become very skilled at choosing what ebooks to purchase based on
their patrons' needs and wants.
Types of ebook platforms for
There is no one agreed-upon definition of what
constitutes an ebook platform. In their broadest
sense, they include products that house electronic
versions of ebooks. They are usually hosted by one of
the following sources:
Publisher-hosted ebook platforms
Libraries acquiring trade titles don't have the option to purchase ebooks
directly from publishers like Random House, since those are usually available
through ebook lending services, such as, OverDrive and 3M.
On the academic side, a number of publishers have pursued their own ebook
initiatives, releasing platforms that house e-versions of their own titles,
including, for example, Oxford University Press, SAGE Publications, and
Since science ebooks age more rapidly than other types of e-content—owing to
time-sensitive advancements in the STM field—STM publishers faced the
ebook challenge long before most others and have positioned themselves as
leaders in the ebook market.
On the K-12 side, the industry has seen the proliferation of platforms featuring
interactive ebooks, such as those by Scholastic, as well as web-based ebook
platforms, such as ePointbooks.com, which hosts the ebook titles of several
imprints, including Rosen Publishing, Gareth Stevens Publishing, Britannica
Educational Publishing, and Windmill Books.
Publisher ebook platforms, cont.
There are many advantages for libraries wanting to buy directly from
publishers, including the elimination of middlemen in the process, which saves
libraries time and money, and the ability to search across content formats
without significant restrictions (many publisher platforms fully integrate
ebook chapters with journal articles, making it easy for students to peruse
ebooks and journals on the same topic simultaneously).
Publisher platforms also feature a more "organic" look and are equipped with
publisher-nurtured enhancements, including maintenance by on-site editors
and other staff members familiar with the content. Their platforms may also
contain content not available in aggregator versions of their books.
One challenge associated with publisher-hosted ebook platforms is the need
for librarians to engage with several publishers simultaneously. Libraries need
to sign multiple agreements and they need to devote time to staff (as well as
patron) training each time a new publisher platform is implemented.
Aggregator ebook platforms
Aggregators include companies that amass ebook content from multiple
publishers and sell it to libraries via a range of buying plans. They are more
established in academic libraries, since much of their ebook content is
intended for use by students, faculty, and scholars. However, many aggregators
are releasing public library and K-12 versions of their legacy platforms, and
their presence in schools and public libraries is growing.
Ebooks on aggregator platforms are fully searchable and cross-searchable and
may be acquired in several ways. Just about every major library aggregator
offers its own set of unique buying plans.
Since aggregators were the early players in the ebook market, their products are
often ahead of the curve in terms of technical capabilities and purchasing
options. Major aggregator platforms include ebooks on EBSCOhost, ProQuest's
ebrary, and Ingram's MyiLibrary. Others include EBL (by Ebooks Corporation
Limited, now owned by ProQuest), Safary Books Online, Books 24/7, Knovel,
and for reference ebooks, The Gale Virtual Reference Library and Literati by
Aggregator ebook platforms, cont.
When buying from aggregators, librarians are dealing with one vs. many
license agreements and the ordering is easier since they are fully integrated into
distribution systems. Another advantage is that they provide many more titles
in one place and are often marketed to libraries as "solution" platforms, with a
host of embedded discovery services and features extending beyond providing
access to the content, including interactive learning tools and lesson plans.
Since aggregator platforms are publisher-neutral, they are likely to give as much
exposure to bestselling titles as to those published by small presses. On the
other hand, not all titles are available by every publisher on aggregator
platforms and many are not available in ebook format as soon as they are
published in print (owing to embargo periods set by publishers in advance;
these vary from one to six months).
Although they provide access to large quantities of content, aggregator
platforms usually come with a higher price tag, impose minimum purchase
requirements, and don't allow as much room for negotiation since ebook
prices, like embargo periods, are mandated by publishers.
Distributor platforms and ebook
It has become more challenging to set distributors apart from
aggregators, as both engage in similar ebook practices and the
explosion of new technologies has paved the way for significant
expansion of distributor and aggregator roles in the library market.
Distributors usually include companies that distribute ebooks to
libraries in an a la carte fashion, include large quantities of popular
titles heavily circulated in public libraries, and generally do not make
the ebooks on their platforms cross-searchable. Distributors' main
mission is to circulate ebooks on a title-by-title basis rather than to
"blend" them or use them to develop "offspring" collections.
In the ebook market, distributors include both wholesalers migrating
to the e-model, such as, for example, Baker & Taylor, as well as ebook
lending services like OverDrive and Follett, which have dominated
ebook distribution in public and school libraries for a number of years.
Pay per page services like Total Boox, have entered the market to offer
alternatives to libraries looking to provide instant access and pay only
for the content actually read by patrons.
Distributor platforms and ebook
lending services, cont.
Both traditional distributors (with a long history in the print book business)
and ebook lending services generally operate on a one book/one user business
model. This means that an item can be checked out for an established period of
time by one user. In addition, their titles are coded with DRM (Digital Rights
Management) to limit access after the due date. Aggregator platforms usually
do not apply the same DRM restrictions.
Owing to new technologies, print wholesalers (also a type of distributor) are
now transforming their practices and developing digital media platforms of
their own. Baker & Taylor's Axis 360 platform makes it possible for libraries to
acquire all content in one place—this is especially beneficial for libraries
already using B&T for their print collections.
Purchasing ebooks through wholesalers gives libraries a lot of flexibility. They
may choose to purchase single or multiple ebooks from many different
publishers and aggregators and they can negotiate their licenses directly with
the wholesaler (e.g., Yankee Book Peddler offers ebooks from ebrary, EBL, and
ebooks on EBSCOhost). However, ebook prices and licensing terms are set by
the publishers, not wholesalers.
University Press consortia ebook platforms
Most monographic content is now available to academic libraries
via four digitization initiatives supporting the academic market:
Oxford University Press’ (OUP) University Press Scholarship
Cambridge University Press’ (CUP) University Publishing Online
University Press Content Consortium (UPCC) Book Collections on
Books at JSTOR
University Press consortia ebook
Oxford’s UPSO and Cambridge’s UPO represent the efforts of two leading
university presses using their existing platforms as the foundation to digitize their
backlists and those by partner presses. UPSO is a collaboration between OUP and
several university presses (including Fordham and University of Florida) to
aggregate monograph content into a single, cross-searchable platform (no cross-
searching with journals is provided via this platform; the content is limited to
scholarly books and monographs).
UPO is the result of a joint venture between CUP and partner publishers
(including Liverpool University and Mathematical Association of America), to
integrate scholarly books with journal articles on a single platform.
Project MUSE and JSTOR models represent the initiatives of well-known journal
aggregators in the academic community. Project MUSE and JSTOR are marrying
scholarly books to journals and incorporating other types of content into their
growing multi-content platforms.
Ebook platforms in academic and
Academic libraries have for the most part mastered the shift
from p to e on the journal front. Ebooks are perceived as the next
Ebook concerns in academic libraries extend beyond circulation
issues and lending controversies and involve questions about
how ebook platforms support research needs of students and
faculty as well as how they promote information and research
Academic vendors are expected to provide the tools and services
that help students and faculty deepen and simplify their research
at the same time. This has led to the merging of ebook and
journal content in a number of products.
Ebook platforms in public libraries
Main ebook controversies in public libraries continue to revolve around ebook
lending policies as many trade publishers maintain their imposed restrictions
on ebook circulation (e.g., HarperCollins has an imposed limit of 26 checkouts
on their ebooks, while Random House has raised ebook prices, in some cases
by 300 percent) and several others remain uneasy about making their ebooks
available for library lending.
As of early 2014, controversies surrounding ebook lending in public libraries
have subsided and progress has been made on all front, with all publishers
previously hesitant to sell ebooks to libraries now having some strategy in
place. In late 2012, Penguin embarked on a new ebook pilot program with the
New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries to allow patrons of the two systems to
check out Penguin titles six months after publication via 3M Cloud Library,
which already partners with Penguin's sister company Random House.
Public libraries have several ebook lending services to choose from, both for
adult and K-12 content, with OverDrive usually the first platform most public
librarians turn to when deciding on adding ebooks to their library's offerings.
Ebook platforms in public libraries,
cont. OverDrive remains the only platform currently offering books on Kindle (owing to
OverDrive's partnership with Amazon) and no other platform for public libraries has as many
"big publisher" titles. However, many libraries have been frustrated with the cost of
subscription to OverDrive and have started exploring other options.
OverDrive's domination started to be challenged in late 2011 when 3M entered the ebook
market as a direct competitor. 3M is a cloud-based ebook lending system that lets patrons read
and check out titles at home, on the go, or via discovery terminals (or kiosks) located inside
the library. Total Boox entered the market in late 2013 with the launch of a pilot in
Westchester county in New York. It is the only ebook service offering instant, simultaneous
access to all of the titles on the platform. However, it does not yet include the titles from the
A number of public libraries have started experimenting with purchasing books directly from
publishers and hosting them on their own platforms. A good example is Douglas County
Libraries (CO) model, which has received a lot of attention from the library community and
significant interest from publishers.
Douglas County Libraries hosts its own ebook content on an Adobe Content Server (ACS) and
is able to purchase directly from hundreds of publishers at a discount. Patrons are able to
borrow thousands of ebooks from the collection, while the library claims the ownership of the
titles after purchasing them.
Ebook platforms in K-12 and school
Like academic librarians, school and K-12 librarians look for ways to tie digital
content to information literacy, as more emphasis is placed on educating children at
a young age about the types of resources available to them. Educators are drawn to
"enhanced" ebooks that provide embedded tools allowing students to enrich the
reading experience by creating storyboards and blogs, writing book reviews, and
building wiki pages and web sites.
Several well-known K-12 publishers have successfully launched a series of
interactive ebooks designed to meet the needs of AASL (American Association of
School Libraries) standards as well as to support transliteracy skills among K-12
students. These books engage students by encouraging them to create their own
content within the ebooks. They also engage parents and educators with embedded
lesson plans and suggested classroom activities.
K-12 librarians expect ebook platforms for elementary, middle, and high school
students to feature embedded tools that help educators in the process of teaching.
They are also on the lookout for platforms fully aligned with the Common Core, a
nation-wide initiative that calls for a deeper understanding of the context behind
each text a student encounters, to be gained via discussions and close readings of
primary sources (rather than traditional textbooks).
Ebook platforms in K-12 and school
When the Common Core first began to make waves in 2010, reference publishers
in particular were quick to recognize the value of their content—especially in
digital form—for educators implementing the new standards into their
curriculums. This is why we have seen more releases (and re-releases) of ebook
platforms strongly aligned with (and supporting) Common Core from major
aggregators such as EBSCO and publishers like InfoBase Publishing.
Major K-12 ebook aggregators include Follett and Mackin, both platforms
designed to enhance students' research experience via a purchase-to-own
acquisition model and both platforms supporting use of multi-media to enhance
learning in K-12 settings, with some differences.
Mackin is a web-based portal that integrates all of its ebooks and databases
(from 20-plus publishers). The platform supports a number of classroom
research activities but does not yet allow for books to be checked out
individually. Follett, on the other hand, offers a larger number of ebooks, which
can be checked out or downloaded for reading either on a web browser or a
The table below lists the most dominant ebook products in libraries and their parent
companies, sorted alphabetically by product/platform name. The purpose of this table
is to provide a bird's eye view of the ebook market in libraries.
PRODUCT NAME PRODUCT TYPE PARENT COMPANY
123Library Aggregator/Distributor 123Doc Education
3M™ Cloud Library Distributor/Ebook lending
Axis 360 Distributor Baker & Taylor
Books at Jstor University Press
Books@Ovid Aggregator/Distributor Ovid Technologies, Inc.
Books24x7 Aggregator Skillsoft
Brain Hive Distributor/Ebook lending
Brain Hive, LLC
Cambridge Books Online Publisher Cambridge University
DawsonEra Distributor Dawson Books, Ltd.
De Gruyter Online Publisher De Gruyter
EBL Ebook lending service Ebooks Corporation Limited
eBooks on EBSCOhost Aggregator EBSCO Publishing
eBrary Aggregator ProQuest
EpointBooks.com Publisher Rosen Publishing
Follett Shelf Distributor/Ebook lending
Freading Ebook Service Distributor/Ebook lending
Library Ideas LLC
FreedomFlix Publisher Scholastic, Inc.
Gale Virtual Reference
Aggregator Gale Cengage
Infobase eBooks Publisher Infobase Publishing
Knovel Aggregator Knovel Corporation
LexisNexis® Digital Library Ebook lending service Lexis Nexis
Literati by Credo Aggregator Credo Reference
Mackin VIA Aggregator Mackin Educational Resources
McGraw Hill Ebook Library Publisher McGraw Hill
MyiLibrary Aggregator Ingram Content Group
OverDrive Distributor/Ebook lending
Oxford Handbooks Online Publisher Oxford University Press
Oxford Reference Publisher Oxford University Press
Palgrave Connect Publisher Palgrave MacMillan
PsycBooks® Publisher American Psychological
Questia Aggregator Cengage Learning
R2 Digital Library Aggregator/Distributor Rittenhouse Book Distributors
Routledge Reference Online Publisher Taylor & Francis
Safari Books Online Aggregator Safari Books Online, LLC
(Pearson and O'Reilly)
SAGE Knowledge Publisher SAGE Publications
Science Direct Publisher Elsevier
Sharpe Online Reference Publisher M.E. Sharpe
SpringerLink Publisher Springer Science + Business
SpringerReference Publisher Springer Science + Business
StarWalk Kids Media Distributor Seymour Science LLC
Storia® Ebooks Publisher Scholastic, Inc.
SwetsWise Distributor Swets Information Services
Taylor & Francis eBooks Publisher Taylor & Francis
Total Boox Distributor/Ebook Lending
Total Books Ltd
University Press Scholarship
University Press Consortium Oxford University Press
University Publishing Online University Press Consortium Cambridge University Press
UPCC Book Collections on
University Press Consortium Johns Hopkins University Press
Wheelers ePlatform Distributor/Ebook lending
Wiley Online Library Publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
World Book Online Publisher World Book, Inc.
The table below lists the dominant ebook products in libraries listed above, sorted by the library markets
they serve (in some cases more than one):
PRODUCT LIBRARY TYPE
Books at Jstor Academic/Research
Cambridge Books Online Academic/Research
De Gruyter Online Academic/Research
Oxford Handbooks Online Academic/Research
Oxford Reference Academic/Research
Palgrave Connect Academic/Research
Routledge Reference Online Academic/Research
Safari Books Online Academic/Research
Science Direct Academic/Research
University Press Scholarship Online Academic/Research
University Publishing Online Academic/Research
UPCC Book Collections on Project Muse Academic/Research
Wiley Online Library Academic/Research
McGraw Hill Ebook Library Academic/Research, Corporate
SwetsWise Academic/Research, Corporate, Government
Taylor & Francis eBooks Academic/Research, Corporate, Government, Public
SAGE Knowledge Academic/Research, Corporate, Public
LexisNexis® Digital Library Academic/Research, Government, Corporate
DawsonEra Academic/Research, Professional
R2 Digital Library Academic/Research, Professional
Knovel Academic/Research, Professional, Government
eBrary Academic/Research, Public
Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) Academic/Research, Public
Sharpe Online Reference Academic/Research, Public
ABC-CLIO eBook Collection Academic/Research, Public, K-12
eBooks on EBSCOhost Academic/Research, Public, K-12
Literati by Credo Academic/Research, Public, K-12
Questia Academic/Research; 9-12
Brain Hive K-12
EpointBooks.com K-12, Public
Follett Shelf K-12, Public
FreedomFlix K-12, Public
Mackin VIA K-12, Public
StarWalk Kids Media K-12, Public
TrueFlix K-12, Public
Infobase eBooks K-12, Public, Academic/Research
Storia® Ebooks Pre K-8
3M™ Cloud Library Public
Freading Ebook Service Public
Wheelers ePlatform Public, K-12
Total Boox Public
Axis 360 Public, K-12, Government, Corporate, Academic
What to consider choosing ebook
Criterion 1: Content
Questions pertaining to content can usually be answered by simply browsing each
product's web site. Publishers and vendors tend to be forthright about the scope of
their platforms. Rule of thumb: the greater the scope, the greater the value; the
greater the value, the higher the price. The following content-specific questions
usually arise in discussions with vendors:
How many books are included overall?
Do I need to purchase all of them?
What library markets is the platform built for?
Who is the primary audience?
What types of ebooks are available on the platform (e.g., reference books; trade titles from
major houses; monographs)?
In the case of subject-specific or publisher-specific ebook platforms, what are the key subjects
How often are new titles added to the platform?
How much of the content in the platform I may already own?
How can I avoid content overlap and paying twice for the same ebooks already available via
other products by the same company or via its other partners?
In the case of aggregator and distributor platforms, how many publishers are represented?
Keeping up with titles and publishers is no small task; most ebook
platforms are updated on a monthly and in some cases weekly basis. Major
aggregators are constantly signing new deals and announcing new
partnerships with publishers to boost their offerings.
For research and learning purposes, librarians will want to know about the
inclusion of multi-media.
Are there videos, images, maps, charts, graphs, and other multi-media
tools included to enhance the reading experience?
What about integration of other types of content, such as, for example,
journals and various digital encyclopedias and dictionaries?
Is there a sister product (an "offspring") associated with the platform
that may be duplicating some of the content available in other places?
The table below provides an outline of the various content factors to consider when choosing ebook
Type of ebook platform (e.g., by publisher, aggregator, wholesaler, university press, ebook
Primary library market (e.g., Public, K-12, Academic, Corporate, Government)
Number of titles
Number of publishers and/or imprints
Types of ebooks on the platform (e.g., trade books; reference books; monographs; K-12
Expected growth/frequency of updates (how often are new titles added)
Subjects covered (e.g., fiction, general nonfiction, arts & humanities; science & technology)
Inclusion of multi-media (e.g., images, videos, interactive maps)
Integration of content other than ebooks (e.g., journals)
Inclusion of book reviews
Inclusion of author biographies and other works by the same author
Distributor partner (e.g., Yankee Book Peddler)
Offspring (related products)
Criterion 2: Technical Specifications
Technical specs involve discussions about the equipment needed for the
library/user to access ebooks, browsers supported, software or plug-ins
needed, file formats of ebooks, and compatible e-readers.
Most ebook platforms support all browsers, including Internet
Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome, but there are exceptions to this
rule. Knowing in advance which browsers the platform supports and whether
any additional software installations are needed (e.g., Adobe Digital Editions)
helps librarians give their patrons accurate information about accessing
information from a home computer.
Ebooks are generally sold to libraries in PDF and ePub file formats. These two
are supported by the majority of reading devices, including Nook, iPad, Sony
Reader, and Kobo. Kindle uses its own proprietary format.
Not all ebooks may be read on all devices. This is one of the most challenging
aspects of how the story of ebooks has unfolded in recent years. While the
number of e-readers on the market continues to grow, so does the frustration
surrounding the limitations imposed on users who own only one reading
device or a library able to afford only one type of ebook platform or ebook
The table below provides an outline of the technical factors to consider when choosing ebook
Browsers supported (e.g., Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome)
Software requirements (e.g., Adobe Digital Editions)
File formats (e.g., ePub, PDF, HTML, XML)
Availability of an app
Hand-held e-readers supported (e.g., Nook, iPad, Kindle, Kobo, Sony eReader)
Availability of a proprietary reader by the vendor
Compatibility with ILS (integrated library system)
Integration with the library's OPAC
Criterion 3: Functionality
Functionality is all about the bells and whistles associated with each
platform. Librarians need to be aware of the different features and their
usefulness both for the library (e.g., COUNTER reports) and for the
patrons (e.g., ability to print portions of an ebook).
Academic librarians will be most interested in the embedded tools that
support research, including full-text searching at book and chapter level,
annotation and citation tools, persistent URLs, copy/paste and printing
options, and content availability for offline reading.
The availability of usage data (e.g., COUNTER), ADA-compliant
features, and MARC records are of interest to all libraries. Ebook
catalogs can range from having MARC records available for every ebook
title offered by the library to not having any. The majority of vendors
provide MARC records, especially those with a large number of reference
The table below provides an outline of the various functionality factors to consider when
choosing ebook platforms:
Searching at article-level, book-level, and collection-level
Advanced search capabilities (truncation, Boolean)
Bookmarking within ebooks
Availability of usage reports
Persistent URLs (book, chapter, collection level)
Print on Demand copy service
Availability of MARC records
Criterion 4: Business models
Dealing with business models and understanding the
multitude of pricing options available is the most
complicated—and controversial—part of ebook
acquisition. It not only requires constant upkeep with
various policies and business practices, which change
persistently owing to the mergers that occur within the
industry and to the technological advances that make it
possible for companies to upgrade purchasing plans more
Since pricing options are usually not explained at length on
vendor sites, librarians need to take a proactive approach
and explore all viable alternatives.
Typical business model questions
Is this a subscription or purchase-to-own model?
If I choose to purchase ebooks to own, are there annual access
fees associated with using the platform?
Can fees be waived if a certain number of ebooks is purchased in
If I opt for the subscription package, what happens to the
content after my contract expires?
How frequently will my library be invoiced?
Can I view the product before purchasing (and without needing
to sign up for an institutional trail)?
In the case of aggregator and distributor platforms, are embargo
periods imposed by publishers for certain front-list titles?
Business models, cont.
Since many ebook vendors charge the cost of a print title plus a certain
percentage for their ebooks, librarians want to know what the cost of each title
is in relation to its print counterpart. They also want to know about single vs.
multiple vs. unlimited use of each ebook. Some platforms allow for an
unlimited use of their ebooks (by any number of readers at any time), while
others adhere to a one title/one user model. Some offer unlimited access for
older titles but impose a one title/one user model for new releases.
Access policies vary widely among vendors and they are not always set in stone.
If a vendor only has one business model in place at launch, it is not unusual for
the vendor to revise its policy in six months to offer more options.
Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) is one of the most talked-about models for
acquiring ebooks in academic libraries. Offered mostly by aggregators (and
some publishers), the PDA model is fairly straightforward: ebook purchases are
triggered based on traffic and patron interest in particular titles. In other
words, patron's use of book triggers purchase (various trigger/price points are
offered). This business model guarantees that only the content that gets used
gets purchased. Although not as common in public libraries, some
vendors, including 3M, have started experimenting with a PDA option for their
public library customers.
Business models, cont.
Short-term loans (STL) are a good solution for librarians looking to obtain access to content
they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford buying. STLs are similar to the PDA model in that
the patron demand ultimately drives what the library budget is spent on. The key difference
is that STLs are about renting ebooks instead of buying them. Patrons borrow titles directly
from the aggregator’s catalog (not owned by the library) and get access to a title for a set
period of time (usually one, two, three, seven, 14, or 30 days) and the library is charged for
the rental. This costs the library anywhere from five to 30 percent of the title price (loan
prices escalate according to the number of days required for the loan).
A popular way to save money when purchasing ebooks is via library consortia. Many
vendors have arrangements with consortia that provide ebooks to libraries at discounted
rates. As is the case with other alternatives, librarians will encounter both benefits and
drawbacks when choosing the consortia route.
Consortial benefits include more ebooks for less money and equality of content across
libraries and minimal energy spent on licensing agreements (these are handled by third
parties). There are also challenges. Since publishers don't benefit as much when libraries
share access, they often put pressure on aggregators to limit the size of consortia. In
addition, certain member libraries may have unique needs that are not in line with those of
other members or they may not want to spend money on titles that others want to buy. On
the public library side, larger consortia means longer wait time for popular trade titles.
Total Boox, which entered the market in late 2013, aims to change
the “game” in libraries by charging them only for the portions of
the content actually read by patrons. In some cases this could be a
single book, in others an entire book.
The reading is metered (in real time) and libraries are never
charged for downloads. The meter “starts ticking” only when
patrons read. The cost of the book corresponds to the cost of the
retail, not library, price.
As of early 2014, this is possibly the most cost-effective model for
libraries (there are no annual maintenance fees and libraries are
allowed to set their own budgets), but it is still uncertain if this
type of metered reading provides long-term benefits for libraries
The table below provides an outline of the business model factors to consider when choosing
BUSINESS MODEL CONSIDERATIONS
One user/one book model
Purchase to own option
Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA)
Free viewing period (for PDA)
Perpetual archive fee
Title cost relative to print cost
Invoicing intervals (monthly, quarterly, yearly)
Use of content via classroom projection devices (e.g., interactive whiteboards)
Annual maintenance fee
Free trials (length period)
Pay per View option
Availability of pre-built subject collections
Ebook spending in libraries
According to Library Journal's 2012 and 2013 ebook
surveys of ebook usage in public, academic, and K-12
libraries, the following purchasing trends were noted
across library institutions:
83 % of academic libraries opt for perpetual access. The second
most popular option is subscription. (71%); Patron Driven
Acquisition is a growing option, up from 16% in 2010 to 31% in
Six out of ten academic libraries belong to resource-sharing
consortia, while more than 80% of those that belong to a
consortium also buy books independently.
General non-circulating reference materials and monographs are
the largest categories of ebooks found in academic library
collections. E-textbooks lag behind reference books,
monographs, classic literature, and general nonfiction.
From the LJ survey:
What type of purchasing terms does your library typically use when acquiring ebooks? (multiple
responses permitted) % of academic libraries by type of institution and acquisition budget
Type of Institution Public or Private Acquisition Budget
Public Private < $100K $100K–
Purchase with perpetual
93% 79% 71% 80% 84% 77% 80% 90%
Subscription 79% 66% 63% 75% 64% 62% 73% 70%
Concurrent seat access 51% 40% 21% 42% 37% 31% 35% 60%
Upfront purchase with
51% 34% 21% 34% 40% 31% 33% 50%
User-driven acquisition 37% 30% 21% 35% 25% 18% 27% 48%
Bundled with other
40% 18% 17% 30% 22% 26% 22% 34%
Upfront purchase with
19% 8% 17% 16% 8% 13% 10% 16%
Purchase with perpetual
access through self
18% 2% 17% 13% 5% 10% 7% 12%
Pay-per-use 7% 12% 0% 8% 10% 0% 9% 14%
License with set # circs
4% 2% 8% 5% 2% 3% 3% 4%
Other 0% 2% 0% 2% 1% 0% 2% 2%
PUBLIC LIBRARIES (2013 data)
Percentage of budgets spent on ebooks
Business models used in public libraries in 2013
SCHOOL LIBRARIES (2012 data)
Most school libraries were not early to adopt ebooks: on average, they
have only been carrying ebooks for less than two years. The majority of
school libraries (60%) still do not offer ebooks.
On average, school libraries spend $1,200 on ebooks in the current
According to the LJ survey, schools are tentatively entering the ebook
market, and budgets are "finite" and "shrinking."
When school libraries purchase ebooks, more often than not, they
purchase “perpetual access.” The option for “concurrent use/access”
continues to grow, from 16% to 30% in 2012.
“Subscription” continues to decline in popularity.
In 2012 Follett remained the top vendor for elementary and middle school libraries, with Gale Virtual
Reference Library slightly ahead for high schools. Buying ebooks directly from the publisher is falling
out of favor across the board.
Vendors Used to Purchase Ebooks
Elem. Middle High
FollettShelf 76% 67% 59%
Gale Virtual Reference
2% 25% 60%
Tumblebooks 20% 10% 5%
Amazon.com 7% 17% 19%
Barnes & Noble 10% 17% 11%
Mackin 11% 3% 5%
Capstone 10% 5% 2%
OverDrive 3% 11% 12%
EBSCOhost 2% 7% 13%
Scholastic 8% 5% 0%
iTunes 4% 6% 5%
Direct from publisher 2% 6% 11%
Baker & Taylor 3% 3% 3%
Other 10% 10% 19%
SCHOOL LIBRARIES (2013 data)
Percentage of school budgets spent on ebooks
WEEK 3 REVIEW
By the end of Week 3, you should be able to answer the following:
What types of ebook platforms exist in libraries?
What are the basic differences between ebook distributors and aggregators?
What are the pros and cons of publisher-hosted platforms?
What are the pros and cons of aggregator platforms?
What are the pros and cons of ebook lending services?
What are the pros and cons of consortial purchasing of ebooks?
What are the main University Press content ebook platforms?
What are the main challenges associated with ebook platforms in academic libraries?
WEEK 3 REVIEW, Cont.
What are the main challenges associated with ebook platforms in public libraries?
What are the main challenges associated with ebook platforms in K-12/school libraries?
Who are the dominant aggregators of ebook content for academic libraries?
Who are the dominant aggregators of ebook content for school and K-12 libraries?
Who are the dominant ebook lending services in public and school libraries?
What are the main criteria for purchasing ebook platforms in libraries?
What are the most common questions associated with each purchasing criterion?
What types of business models exist for purchasing of ebook platforms?
What is the basic difference between subscription and purchase-to-own ebook platforms?
What are the main controversies surrounding ebook lending in public libraries?
What do recent surveys suggest about ebook purchasing trends in public, academic, and K-12
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