While the LIS industry has made great strides in improving how ebooks function in libraries the past few years, as any librarian in charge of ebook collection development can attest, ebooks are not always easier to manage than print books. They can, in fact, be more challenging. Many factors come into play and long gone are the days when librarians only needed to order particular titles based on interest or need communicated to them in advance by faculty or researchers.
In 2017, the universe of ebooks and econtent continues to grow at a dizzying rate, making it very challenging to keep up on a title-by-title basis; shrinking budgets and staff reductions have become the norm even in affluent institutions; and to remain competitive research institutions must rely on current scholarship that is constantly refreshed and available to them without restriction.
LIS journals that cover ebooks are overflowing with articles asking the same questions time and again: Can my library afford the new product or service? Will a particular method help streamline workflow? How much high-quality content is readily available? How much will my library be able to own in perpetuity? What will happen if my library doesn’t renew a subscription to a product that no longer serves its needs? Will the library have clear insight into patron usage? How well will the new product integrate into the library’s existing catalog? And, not to be overlooked: who is the content provider and what is its credibility in the library market?
This series of articles aims to elucidate some of the ebook challenges librarians in academic institutions (of all sizes) have had to grapple with in recent years in their ongoing efforts to support research. The goal here is to discuss key issues surrounding ebook purchasing and clarify some misconceptions that still persist within the industry, not only about the nature of ebooks (as explained by Frederick) but, more important, about the ebook business models offered to libraries. These models continue to evolve, of course, as librarians, publishers, and aggregators adjust their expectations and learn from experience.
Read or download the full issue of No Shelf Required’s journal on Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries: Key Issues and Emerging Trends here.