September 21, 2010
Where Do We Stand in Use, Acquisition Interest and Market Penetration of Law eBooks? Results of LLB Poll
With the introduction of eReaders and triple-digit annual sales increases in eBooks, it is fair to say that the eBook is now mainstream for consumers. Also becoming, if not already is, mainstream in public libraries. See, for example, 60,000 new library cards handed out last year as readers plug in to e-books. But hardly the case in law libraries. Either we are "behind the curve" in providing law eBooks to our user populations (workforce, students, members of the public) or our major legal publishers are.
Based on LLB's very unscientific poll for law eBooks (defined as including hornbooks and casebooks for instruction, primary source materials such as topical statutory, regulatory and court rule compilations, and secondary legal sources including but not limited to legal practitioner materials such as practice handbooks and treatises, etc) 69% of the participants replied that law eBook use among their institutions population was almost nonexistent or nonexistent with another 25% responding that use was not prevalent.
56% of responses agree or strongly agree with the statement that "legal eBooks are going to be an important facet of law library collection development." 29% either disagree or strongly disagree and 11% had no opinion on the matter. However, 83% of the responses rate the current selection, quality and pricing of law eBooks as very poor (54%) or poor (29%).
Who is "behind the curve," law libraries or legal publishers? Two-thirds of the participants responded that one of the most significant deterrents to the rapid growth of law eBooks for their user population was the availability of titles from reputable vendors. This was the highest response rate for this select multiple options question. The second highest selection was proprietary formats instead of open source formats. Followed closely by (1) licensing instead of owning the law eBook outright and (2) the inability to integrated eBook content into work product directly. Publishers take note.
While 20% of the participants reported that their libraries have plans to start acquiring law eBooks for lending soon, 78% do not have plans to do so at this time. So while law eBooks may become an important facet of law library collection development, one question remains, when?
What's stopping our professional legal services vendors? Perhaps it's a concern that law eBooks will cut into print and online search services, misguided in my opinion. More likely it is because they have to design their own eBook distribution channels for DRM-ed products. As one law book publisher wrote:
[G]iven the legal publishing business, it was highly unlikely that publishers were going to put books on Kindle, iBooks, or the upcoming Blio reader or make DRM-free versions available for Stanza or Ibis. Giving up that kind of revenue split [with ebook distributors like Apple and Amazon] and loss of account information just doesn’t sit well with an industry accustomed to selling directly to the consumer (unlike trade). -- Jason Wilson
Quoting from LLB's A Blogosphere Handshake: Tom Meet Jason Wilson, Jason Meet Tom Glocer. (Ray Kurzweil's Blio eReader is set to launch September 28 by the way. More than a million free books plus a substantial number of titles from the catalogs of leading publishers like Elsevier, Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Wiley and others are expected to be available from Blio's bookstore soon.)
Let's add, crafting licensing agreements for the individual law eBook buyer that include opt-out only (if that) on-going updating with its associated charges not unlike the current contract model for institutional subscribers of print and online legal search services. Imagine that revenue stream! I'm sufficiently cynical to think that many law libraries will be paying those individual law eBook licenses for members of their institution's workforce but may not be lending them until our major publishers have soaked every last penny out of the individual consumer market.
Oh well, we can still "read all about it." See No Shelf Required: E-Books in Libraries (ALA Editions, 2010) in print with eBook edition forthcoming. See also Chief Officers of State Library Agencies final report, COSLA: eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries (June 30, 2010).
Complete Poll Results. The results of this utterly unscientific poll, including matters not discussed above, are displayed below. Thanks to everyone who took the time. Responses ranged from 52 to 72. Fairly low but it's about what I expected (although using clunky pollware instead of the one usually used -- thanks TypePad! -- may have also contributed to this response rate).
Why did I expect a low response rate? Because until our major vendors join the eBook market in a big way, we law librarians are not active participants at the institutional level. [JH]
|Law eBooks and the Institutional Buyer|
|LLB Poll Post|