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Choosing e-books: a perspective from academic libraries

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Purpose ‐ E-books are an important and growing type of digital resource. Academic libraries have traditionally had a major role in selecting books and making them available to learners, scholars, and researchers. Therefore the processes and criteria that they apply in the selection and acquisition of e-books may potentially have significant consequences for the future viability of e-books as a product. This paper aims to report on research into the criteria and processes that academic libraries use to choose e-books. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 librarians in seven academic libraries in the UK. Findings ‐ Academic libraries purchase e-books from a portfolio of different vendors. In order to select the books and packages that they acquire they apply a number of criteria, including business models, licence, price, platform, interface, subject coverage, and match to reading lists. High on the list of librarians' concerns are: the variation in and complexity of business models for purchasing, licence variety and digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, and perceived high prices. Originality/value ‐ This study focuses directly and in depth on the buying and selection processes and criteria. Insights offered by this study may be of value to publishers, aggregators and librarians.
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Keywords: Academic libraries; Acquisition; Buyer decision-making; Digital resources; E-books; Electronic media; Purchase agreements; Selection criteria; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 17 February 2012

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