E-books project

The JISC national e-books observatory project is about to enter its second stage where evidence will be gathered from over 170 Higher Education institutions. The Deep Log Analysis (DLA) study, starting in January 2008 and running till December 2008, will provide an evidence base from which future decisions regarding the feasibility, costs and models for the delivery of e-textbooks and reading list e-books through the library can made.Most universities have a collection of reference e-books that are multidisciplinary or era specific. The use of these collections is established, particularly with the post-graduate and research communities. What is currently missing from the library is the availability of online reading list e-books and textbooks for taught course students. The 2006 Feasibility Study on the Acquisition of E-books in Higher Education and the Role of JISC, found that libraries ‘were either ‘very eager’ or ‘fairly eager’ to develop e-book collections’ to meet the needs of taught course students (The Higher Education Consultancy Group 2006 p.15). The reason that libraries have not simply done this is because such e-books are not available, and the reason that they are not available is because the publishers are unsure of what business and licensing models to use to avoid cannibalising their print sales which provide a high percentage of their income.

The national e-books observatory project is here to shed some light on this situation, to provide evidence to inform the creation of new models that are based on knowledge not assumptions. What is great about this project is that, unlike most situations where the publishers and librarians both believe that they are right (!), everyone is happy to admit that they are not really sure. Although the publishers assume that making e-textbooks available online through the library will deplete their print sales, they are also aware that their print sales are dropping and that the demand from the education community can not be ignored. They know they need to take action but swapping from one model to another over night is just not possible. Similarly librarians, who are facing the demand from students and the pressure from their VCs to make e-tetxbooks available, feel frustrated that some publishers are being difficult but at the same time recognise that if the library does end up being the central supplier, that budgets will not be able to cope and that all processes will need to change dramatically. There is no simple solution and we all acknowledge this. What can help us to resolve this situation is to understand the value of an e-textbook to teaching staff and students. To understand how these e-books are used. To understand impacts on traditional print sales and to understand each others issues and challenges. The mix of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the DLA study that is being run by CIBER at University College London will do just that.

Some facts and figures:

  • 11 bids were received from publishers and aggregators in response to the JISC core reading list e-book invitation to tender
  • 4744 titles were included in the 11 bids costing over £7 million
  • The project budget was £690,000 to spend on licensing e-book titles for 2 years only
  • Several bids were excluded as they did not meet the requirements as in the tender document, for example, bids were excluded if they did not meet the licensing requirements of the JISC model licence as there was little point in including e-books that could not be used in the ways required by staff and students.
  • 136 titles were included in the consultation that we sent out to the HE community – these 136 titles were valued at over £2.08 million (excluding VAT) by the publishers, we had £690,000!
  • There were 7 media studies e-books included in the consultation at a total of £73,266
  • There were 58 business and management studies e-books included. The cost of just the top 5 business and management e-books was over £362,000.
  • In engineering there were 29 e-books in the consultation and the cost of the top 7 was £201,477. However, if you removed one title that was over £60k, 18 e-books could be purchased for £200,688.
  • The medicine area included 42 e-books, 30 of which cost £300k and the others cost £96,204.
  • Over 70 HE institutions responded to the consultation to prioritise the list of titles and to the consultation to assess the licensing options
  • As a result of the consultation, the Disability Discrimination Act, submission into the JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service of the e-book content and access by students and staff at partner FE Colleges registered at the HE institution were added
  • The tender was won by MyiLibrary and Wolters Kluwer
  • 36 e-books were licensed for two years; 7 media studies, 5 business and management, 14 engineering and 10 medicine costing £690K
  • The publishers involved include Pearson, Palgrave, Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Thomas Telford, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins and Cambridge University Press
  • Thomas Telford submitted 2 of the 36 titles for free so the average cost per title was around £20,000 for unlimited simultaneous access for all HE.
  • 126 institutions are currently subscribed to the MyiLibrary collection (Media Studies Engineering and Business and Management) and 80 to the Wolters Kluwer collection (medicine).
  • Over 75% of all UK HE institutions are participating in the project.
  • The tender for the Deep Log Analysis study was awarded to CIBER at University College London
  • Over 20,000 responses were received to the first user survey making it one of the largest e-book surveys ever undertaken.
  • The JISC E-books UK Roadshow was carried out from January to March and included 12 workshops around the UK. The aim of the workshops was to discuss pricing and licensing models, the role of the library in the delivery of e-textbooks and the drivers required to meet librarian’s e-book utopias.
  • 250 librarians from 131 different institutions attended the 12 workshops

A bit more specific…..

At the end of the DLA study, findings will be presented to JISC Collections, publishers and aggregators and librarians. If you are a librarian what can you expect from your participation in the project?

  • findings on the demand for e-books that form part of taught courses by students and staff in your institution and in other institutions
  • findings on the perceptions, opinions and attitudes of staff and students towards e-books
  • findings on the use of the e-books included in the project by students and staff
  • findings to inform best practice for the effective promotion of e-books by libraries to their staff and students
  • findings to inform the future pricing and licensing models for e-books that take into account student use and buying behaviours
  • findings on the impact of the e-books included in the project upon teaching and learning practices
  • findings on the impact of the e-books included in the project on library print circulation data

DLA is real time research where impacts can be monitored and identified at the point of change or deployment. It looks at the information seeking behavoiurs of users by following their path to discovery of the e-book and then the use of the e-book. It will be extremely interesting to see if and how a medicine student uses an e-book differently to a media studies student. The data will identify how long students spend in the e-books and how they are searching, if they are simply going in and printing the pages they need, if they make use of the functionality of the interface and if they find the e-book through the library catalogue or through a search engine. It may be that we find students use e-books to browse content and then are motivated to buy the print copy or it may be that we find students feel comfortable reading chapters online and like the fact that they don’t have to purchase the book. Not only is this study going to be fascinating and highly innovative, but it is going to enrich our knowledge and help us all work together to stimulate a market that uses models based on real data.

If you would like further information on the project visit www.jiscebooksproject.org or contact Caren Milloy on c.milloy@jisc.ac.uk.