January 30, 2013

ALA releases scorecard for publisher ebook terms


ALA has developed criteria to help libraries evaluate publisher ebook licensing models.

The ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group released their second report at ALA Midwinter this week. Their first report regarding guidelines for ebook business models was released last year in August.

In this new report, the committee proposes a rubric and method of evaluation to help public libraries who are confronted with a wide range of ebook licensing agreements — ranging from HarperCollins’ moderately priced 26-time lending limit to Random House’s much more expensive permanent license.

Comparing the needs of a library looking to buy ebooks to a “tall man shopping for a car,” the report offers this interesting analogy:

For him, “head room” is an important variable—one that he must have before buying. He may care more about “head room” than price. For a particular librarian, ebook “integration into the catalog” may be a more important variable than the “preservation” of ebooks. In this case, “integration” would get a higher score… Thus a librarian must be willing to negotiate strongly for important variables over others.

The report recommends that libraries consider the following factors, and sets up a 5 point system to evaluate each feature:

* Replicating the print model – Are there restrictions that treat ebooks like print books?

* Inclusion of all titles – Are ebooks that are for sale to the public available for sale to libraries?

* Right to transfer content to a different delivery platform – Can ebook content be transferred to library-designated platforms?

* Right to lend content indefinitely – Can ebooks be discovered in the library catalog without undue complexity?

* Accessibility for people with disabilities – Is ebook content offered in DAISY or PUB3 format?

* Integration – Do publisher terms allow for ebook content to be easily integrated into the library catalog?

* Single user – Is ebook content offered with alternatives to the single-user model (only one patron can check out a title at a time) or do the terms essentially amount to a rental?

* Limited number of loans – Do platform fees for annual subscriptions that don’t circulate make loan terms more appealing?

* Variable pricing – Is ebook content offered at a standard library discount (about 45 percent)?

* Delayed sales with discounts – If the library has to wait longer than the public for ebook content, is it discounted?

* Premium for immediate access to delayed titles – Can libraries pay more for immediate access to the most popular titles?

* In-Library check-out – Does the publisher require that the patron physically go to the library to check out an ebook?

* Restrictions on consortia or interlibrary loans – Can libraries offer consortia borrowing?




Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.