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If you didn’t make it to this year’s Charleston Conference, then you also missed our ProQuest luncheon featuring special guest Tony Davies, Associate Director of Information Resources, from Swinburne University of Technology. He spoke about the last 10 years of trends and changes in ebook acquisition – and building a better ebook collection – in the institute’s library.
Swinburne University of Technology is located in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city (also named the world’s most liveable city for 6 consecutive years). Swinburne originated as a technical college when it first opened in 1908 and attained university status in 1992. It offers Bachelor, Masters and Ph.D. degrees. Its 23,000 FTE students are spread over three campuses in Melbourne, Sarawak and electronic courses offered via Swinburne Online.
Notably, the vast majority of books in the university library’s collection are ebooks.
Here is a breakdown of the collection:
- 787,194 total book titles (all formats deduplicated)
- 91,627 print books
- 714,531 ebooks
- 18,694 overlap P&E
Davies pointed out that the collection was acquired pretty evenly among a few different models:
- 39% of the ebooks are purchased – almost exclusively as collections with a small number of single title ebook monographs. The exception is that 16,831 of purchased ebooks were autopurchased through DDA.
- 37% of their ebook collection is not technically owned -- DDA books that have not yet triggered a purchase.
- 24% of Swinburne’s ebooks have been purchased through subscription.
Davies recalled that in July 2006 Swinburne University of Technology worked with ProQuest EBL to be the first library in the world to launch a large-scale DDA program. And in being the first, it took a bit of trial and error to set things up just right. Davies said, “We needed a way to provide a pool of ebooks that our users could select from without us having to try to select the individual ebook titles ourselves. DDA seemed to provide a solution.”
Davies noted that because DDA works with other acquisition models (such as purchases and subscriptions) the library could customize how they acquire ebooks, making it easier to offer selections specially targeted for their students, faculty, and researchers.
Each year since implementing DDA, ebook usage through the program increased. And so did expenditure, but the cost was increasing at a rate that still worked within Swinburne’s budget.
“We had become aware in the second half of 2014 that the changes some publishers were implementing with increased STL [short-term loan] fees were having an effect and we started looking seriously at the trend in early 2015,” Davies recalled. “It was a bit scary.”
So, they devised a vision for the future of ebook acquisition at the university:
- Get expenditure down to a sustainable level but...
- Keep as many ebooks available as possible, and...
- Retain or increase usage.
They just weren’t sure how to get there.
Swinburne University of Technology reached out to their representatives at ProQuest to analyze expenditure in the first months of 2015 and model some alternative scenarios.
Initially, the team explored a combination of reducing the purchase price threshold to either $225 or $200; and reducing the STL percentage to 40%, 35% and 30%. However, with the merging of the EBL and ebrary backend platforms and an expansion of content around October 2015 “we worried that, if a lot more ebooks suddenly became available, our costs would blow out again,” Davies explained.
So, back to the drawing board.
When ProQuest ran the library’s usual profile in report mode in October, they discovered if Swinburne University of Technology made no changes to their program, 85,000 additional ebooks would be added to their DDA pool.
Reducing the STL fee actually didn’t reduce the DDA pool by much (only 33 books) but the library thought it would be good on principle, as it could offer protection if some publishers put up STL fees in future. “So we considered it taking proactive action,” said Davies.
Then they removed any book with a pub date earlier than 2004, and ended up with a collection of newer, more in-demand titles to increase the value of their collection.
“As our costs had blown out in the first part of 2015, we really had to get down the expenditure in the second part of the year to bring the full year expenditure in at a sustainable level,” Davies explained.
Once again, Swinburne consulted with their partners at ProQuest about modelling their new Access-to-Own profile alongside their STL DDA profile. They considered a suggestion for their library to use ATO to increase their price threshold.
Access-to-Own is ProQuest’s solution for facilitating title ownership by applying budget dollars spent on rentals to perpetual purchases. The model, which utilizes DDA, addresses STL pricing concerns and provides access to more frontlist content than may be available with short-term loans, resulting in more content ownership.
“Because the STL fees as a percent of purchase price lead to a higher overall cost, we've tried to set the price threshold at a reasonable level, but not so low as to cut out a lot of valuable content,” Davies said. “Our acquisitions librarian did some analysis and it showed that our limit was actually excluding quite a number of titles from publishers because they were just over the limit.”
In the end, Swinburne was able to increase the price limit for both STL, and raise the ATO limit a bit higher because the overall cost would be lower without the STL fees before purchase.
Davies described the library’s collection as more robust and better targeted to his university’s budgetary and content needs, especially when it comes to keeping up with titles from smaller publishers.
“For us it is a way to provide access to a much wider pool of titles than we could if we only looked at major publishers and aggregators,” he observed.
See the Slideshare of the presentation given at Charleston.