Illinois State University spoke about their experience with Kanopy. Two key observations about impact:

  • After starting DDA, they saw an increased number of requests to license non-DDA Kanopy titles – suggesting that some percentage of faculty users treat Kanopy as a standalone database.
  • ISU had previously bought streaming rights to some individual titles, which they hosted locally. When these titles were duplicated in the Kanopy DDA set, the Kanopy version generally had more use. This implies that the Kanopy versions are either more useful or more easily discoverable.

At Wake Forest, two Kanopy DDA films have already been used enough to trigger a purchase, and this is before loading the MARC records or doing any promotion beyond a single ZSReads article.

Two librarians from Wesleyan University did both qualitative (anthropology-style + usability) and quantitative (survey) studies of student attitudes and behaviors regarding e-books. Their observations:

  • Having personal control over a copy was most important, e.g. printing or making a PDF.
  • E-books work best for discovery. Print is better for deep reading.
  • Students read just what they need to write the paper. This holds true for print books and e-books.
  • Students are not interested in pirating per se, but they prioritize easy over legitimate.
  • Indexes to e-books are still exact reproductions of the paper format. The index terms are not hyperlinked; therefore, the index does not get used.

I saw two presentations on e-books featuring the always interesting Michael Levine-Clark from Denver. In the first presentation, he was on a panel that included reps from Wiley, OUP and YBP. They focused on the rapidly increasing costs of short-term loans, i.e. the one-day rental fees paid for the DDA books. Rebecca Seger from OUP presented on the economics of publishing a book. In a nutshell, OUP could predict the revenue streams for print but not for DDA. However, Levine-Clark pointed out that in the aggregate Denver spends the same amount on book content regardless of the existence of DDA. It’s just spread around differently. (At WFU, ZSR is actually spending more on monographs since the advent of DDA.) Any total reduction in monographs spending (at Denver or nationally) is due to journal inflation, which both Oxford and Wiley engage in. Since Denver is facing a flat budget, if current trends continue, their monograph spending (print or e) will be $0 by 2020. The panel did not offer any concrete suggestions on resolving the crisis beyond general statements about publishers and librarians working together.

The second presentation explored e-book usage in the Humanities. Levine-Clark had a national data set, and he compared usage in Humanities vs. Social Sciences vs. STEM. Then he compared the disciplines within Humanities to each other. I quickly realized that – based on usage patterns – Linguistics & Communication act more like the Social Sciences than Humanities. One interesting thing that he noted: The number of use sessions per 100 books available is lower in the Humanities than in Social Sciences or STEM. He did not speculate on a reason, but personally, I wonder if this reflects an oversupply of Humanities research compared to the demand for consuming Humanities research – especially since Humanities faculty are often specifically evaluated by whether they have published a book.

Imagine for a moment that ZSR cancelled its DDA plan: What might take its place? The two main alternative purchasing models are subscriptions (e.g. ebrary) and the Big Deal. I attended two sessions that probed different aspects of the Big Deal model. For e-books, Big Deal purchases are usually brokered directly by publishers (instead of by aggregators like EBL and ebrary). They generally do not have any DRM, and the books can be used by unlimited users. After UNC-Charlotte serendipitously discovered that they had 30 course adoption books within their Big Deal packages, they began deliberately promoting this idea with the faculty. They ultimately paid $14K for 117 additional titles. (They purchased some books one-by-one in addition to the Big Deals.) The bookstore was a good partner. A faculty member who used this program for his Film Studies course talked about how this program positively impacted his teaching.

Examples:

  • He did not feel morally obligated to use every single chapter in the textbook, since the students were not required to pay out-of-pocket for it.
  • A corollary: he felt free to use single chapters from various books.
  • He likes a tech-free classroom, yet he still found ways to use the text within the class session.

Sidebar: This generally works for “course adoption” books. Rebecca Seger had helpfully explained the distinction between a “course adoption” book and a textbook. A textbook is something like Intro to Statistics, 18th edition. A “course adoption” book is something like The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: adaptation to closed frontiers and war, which was not expressly designed as a textbook, but was indeed adopted for course use by a faculty member at WFU. Publishers do not know in advance which general monographs will become course adoption books. Generally, publishers do not sell multi-user textbooks to libraries, since that harms their lucrative (extortionate?) textbook revenue stream.

The last presentation I attended painted a less rosy picture of the Big Deal. Miami University thoroughly analyzed 2.5 years of usage statistics for Big Deal e-books purchased in 2012. Only 19% of titles had a use. Just three books (by their titles, clearly textbooks) accounted for 17% of downloads. Miami’s FTE is roughly 15K, or twice that of WFU. Therefore, I speculate that WFU would see only 10% usage if ZSR were to purchase this kind of package. Every time I have investigated the pricing of one of these packages, I have noted that the discount for buying in bulk does not even come close to accounting for the nearly inevitable low usage rates. While packages differ as to subject coverage, the ones that cover everything published by Publisher X in a given year are the worst deal, as there is no price break for the large swaths of content (e.g. agriculture) that would see virtually no use at a school like WFU.

While the Big Deal for journals is frequently (and sometimes with justice) maligned among librarians, the extra you pay for the journals without any previous subscription (i.e. likely low-use journals) rarely exceeds more than 10% of prior spend. I would not advocate for pursuing the Big Deal model for monographs unless publishers begin offering much steeper discounts.