November 2, 2011
The Patron-Driven Licensing Model: Turning the law library into a demand center for law eBooks
On Inside Higher Ed, Steven Kolowich reports:
The [Education] Advisory Board report, a thick primer covering a range of trends in digital librarianship, predicts a shift in the way academic libraries provide book content to their patrons that mirrors a broader trend in digital media. (The report is not public.) Academic libraries will jettison “large collections of physical books in open stacks with low circulation,” the report says, in favor of licensing agreements with e-book vendors that will enable libraries to purchase only those books that are highest in demand, while paying short-term access fees for books that students use a little and nothing at all for books they do not use.
The report is pointing to patron-driven acquisition as a model for eBook licensing as an emerging and inevitable trend in university libraries "under pressure to prove that their expenditures are in line with their value. And one university says its own experimentation has produced damning data exposing the inefficiency of tradition collection-building compared to new methods that could prevail in the digital era."
Excluding, perhaps, large academic research libraries, most law library collection development policies are driven by usage of their print and online legal resources. Having a print title or online database just because it might be used is "history" these days. Those resources won't return at some later date. One has to wonder whether, actually when, our vendors of law eBooks will be offering licensing agreements based on a patron-driven model. And when that does happen, how much it will cost.
It's not happening in any major way yet. TR Legal is offering academic law libraries eBooks from their study aids catalog for all students right now. But it isn't cheap. It could cost the academic law library as much as it spends for Westlaw each year (with is "cheap" compared to what private and public sector libraries pay). If TR Legal is trying to indocrinate law students to use law eBooks this way, the Company better come up with a "Plan B."
During an AALL session at Philly this year we hear WEXIS eBook product representatives say that we, the marketplace, would tell them, the vendors, what licensing options buyers want. We also hear a jobber say patron-driven acquisitions was a very desirable model because it was cost effective. In addition to providing enhanced eBooks, vendors like TR Legal and Lexis better be considering this licensing model sooner rather than later if they are interested in licensing eBooks to institutional buyers. If library users want them, we will know based on law eBook usage. Guess we will just have to see which vendor makes the offer first. [JH]