University of Greenwich

JISC Collections e-textbook business models trials, 2009-2010
Library Case Study –University of Greenwich

Background, introduction and link to the trials

In Autumn 2008, JISC Collections engaged consultants to arrange a series of trials involving publishers of core textbooks serving UK higher education, the principle aggregators used by HE libraries and a selection of higher education institutions. The purpose of the trials was to try to find appropriate business models that would allow for library-delivery of e-textbooks to students.

In April 2009, and preceding any trials, the consultants produced a landscape report which surveyed the current status of the higher education textbook market in the UK and also drew on examples from overseas to chart the development of the e-textbook and the various initiatives being pursued by publishers.

One of the aims of the landscape report was to put forward recommendations about options for business model trials for widely‐adopted core textbooks, in order to provide data to inform future strategy for all stakeholders. Following discussions by the consultants with a number of libraries, publishers and aggregators, the trials began in September 2009 with ten UK HE institutions, eight textbook publishers and three aggregators taking part. Publishers placed between 1 and 3 textbooks in the trials, and in the majority of the cases, the textbooks were made available via the library’s aggregator of choice. There were 17 e-textbooks in total across 24 trials.

The overall objectives of the trials were:

  • To analyse the economics of a selection of business models for e-textbooks and course text e-books in terms of impact on publisher print sales / revenue and library budgets
  • To assess the management of a selection of business models for e-textbooks and course text e-books in terms of administrative burden and ease of implementation
  • To make recommendations about business models for e-textbooks and course texts e-books following the trials, that are sustainable both in terms of profitability and value for money.

The case study below gives brief details of the experience of participating in the trials by the Library at the University of Greenwich. This provides information to supplement the more detailed findings in the final report.

Institution name: University of Greenwich

General extent of e-book provision by the library:

5438 e-book titles across 3 platforms. The vast majority purchased titles on MyiLibrary, 981 purchased titles from Cambridge Books Online and 13 titles on the OvidSP Platform. We are about a sign a licence to purchase e-book titles on Dawsonera.

Engagement with teaching staff regarding the trial:

Contact and discussion about the trial was limited to explanation of the trial and how to access the e-book as well as requesting permission to add the information to the WebCT course.

How details of the e-book were made available and how it was accessed:

Information about the e-book was added to the Reading List folder in the Criminal Law WebCT course.  It was also publicised to students and staff via the Librarian’s Law and Criminology Library News Blog, by email and a poster on the Law and Criminology notice board in the library.

Feedback from teaching staff and students:

Regrettably very little, other than agreement from academic staff for information to be included in the WebCT course.

Views on the level of usage:

It was regrettable that we lost access to the e-book in November and December as these would probably have shown the heaviest use.  The pattern of usage is typical of any of our resources starting low in September, reaching a peak in January and then declining to April.  Looking at the data for individual week, it is clear that students who had discovered the e-book were regular users but these represented a small number of the total studying Criminal Law.

Preferred pricing models from publishers for library-delivered e-textbooks:

Since we would be unlikely to replace all copies of a textbook with the e-book version and would still buy print copies as would some/most students, we think that any model should reflect this.

Useful lessons learnt from the trial in terms of future library strategy for providing access to e-textbooks:

Much more publicity needed.  It would be helpful if we could encourage academic staff to endorse and publicise e-books.