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The Tangled Web. Publishers’ and aggregators’ e-book pricing models: trying to please everybody Linda Bennett Gold. Leaf. Pricing e-books: the issues for publishers’ customers?.

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The tangled web l.jpg

The Tangled Web

Publishers’ and aggregators’ e-book pricing models:

trying to please everybody

Linda Bennett



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Pricing e-books: the issues for publishers’ customers?

  • Individual users / purchasers want flexibility, particularly the option of buying parts of the book, or leasing the whole book for a short period

  • Librarians often expect e-books to be cheaper than print or even free

  • Librarians want simultaneous user access per title (not one copy, one user)

  • Librarians want more high-demand material to be available in e-format, particularly textbooks

  • Some librarians prefer aggregated collections to publisher-specific collections

  • Some librarians want one platform, not several different platforms from different publishers; thus there is a continuing role for the e-book aggregator



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Pricing e-books: the issues for publishers?

  • E-books cost at least as much to produce as print

  • The publisher should be paid appropriately for allowing simultaneous library user access per title

  • The publisher should be paid appropriately for making high-demand material available to libraries in e-format

  • Making e-books available through different channels and allowing flexibility of choice are generally supported by publishers: appropriate methods of remuneration have to be found



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What about aggregators?

  • They are secondary publishers

  • They ‘reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates’ [wikipedia]

  • They enable librarians to deal with fewer intermediaries

  • They help publishers to increase their customer-base, by providing more routes to market

  • They are very useful scapegoats!



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The simultaneous usage debate

  • Only a tiny percentage of e-books (mainly monographs) are ever viewed simultaneously by more than 2 or 3 people

  • T & F has allowed up to 5 simultaneous users per title, which would seem to cover most current eventualities

  • Why not therefore allow unrestricted simultaneous usage?

    Because so far most publishers have not made many textbooks available as e-books. If they do make more textbooks available, they need the restriction in order to preserve existing revenues

  • If the librarian wants more simultaneous usage per title, the fair solution is for them to buy more e-copies of that title



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Selling e-books: the options1. The retail model

  • End-user buys discrete copy of e-book in chosen format, via publishers’ or booksellers’ website, often using a prefabricated electronic retail service

  • Refinements may be offered on purchase of whole book: read-only; read, view and print, slice-and-dice, etc.; or the option to compile a ‘book’ from several different publications

  • Whole e-book price usually similar to hardback price, with premium charged for part-book sales

  • Some publishers are now offering pay-per-view as well as outright sale to individuals



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Selling e-books: the options2. The direct library sale model

  • Library / organisation buys a copy of the e-book ‘in perpetuity’

  • The price charged for the e-book usually bears some relation to the price of the print version

  • A maintenance fee for access to the platform may also be charged



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Selling e-books: the options3. The subscription model

  • Library / organisation gets access to a collection by paying an annual subscription (‘site licence’). There is usually a minimum order requirement

  • Some publishers allow full multiple user access, some simultaneous access to a specified number of individuals, some don’t allow it

  • Discounts are often given for multi-year deals

  • Prices are set according to subject area and the number of titles offered, and may also relate to the size of the institution, the number of FTEs requiring access to the collection, or some kind of ‘banding’ arrangement

  • The relationship to the print price may be tenuous or non-existent



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Some e-book aggregators

  • NetLibrary

  • ebrary

  • Ebooks corporation / EBL

  • MyiLibrary

  • Books24x7

  • Knovel

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  • Oldest and biggest aggregator

  • Holds approximately 120,000 titles, plus journals, audiobooks, ‘e-Content’

  • Core model: one book, one user

  • Also offers collections

  • Frequently runs special offers and deals

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E-books Corporation / EBL

  • Approximately 80,000 titles

  • EBC offers consumers a retail model

  • EBL:

    • Main model is outright sale

    • Online or offline access

    • ‘non-linear’ lending: limited multiple concurrent use (325 ‘lends’)

    • Short-term loan: libraries can rent a book to be used by a single patron for a short period

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  • 60,000 titles

  • Single and multi-concurrent user book pricing (one-off or subscription – one-off most popular)

  • Single and multi-concurrent user pricing for set collections

  • Individual publisher bundle arrangements

  • Annual subscription options for bundles and collections

  • Content can also be delivered in ‘chunks’

  • Special offers

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  • Online access only

  • XML not PDF

  • Specialist titles aimed at businesses and academia: Computing, Engineering, Business, HR

  • Subscription model only

    • Individual

    • Corporate / institutional

    • Access sold to complete collection or six individual collections

  • Price based on number of users

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  • 800 reference works and classic texts in Science and Engineering

  • Core customers are corporate, academic, government. Some retail

  • Knovel Library. Core model = subscription

  • Lowest level of access by subject area (17 subjects)

  • Access can be obtained on concurrent user or enterprise (relevant user) basis

  • There are individual title outright sale options

  • Knovel Publishing Platform. Publishers offering content on this set prices for end-users. Options range from pay-per-view to institutional access

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Some e-book publishers

  • Elsevier

  • Springer

  • Taylor & Francis

  • Wiley

  • Oxford University Press

  • Cambridge University Press



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Elsevier Science Direct

  • Annual subscription for all serialised content or reference works

  • Upfront payment option for site-wide access to handbooks. Small annual charge from second year onwards. Additional payment charged for new volumes coming on a yearly basis and any new ancillary material

  • One-time payment for ‘standalone’ reference works, without continuing annual fees tied to updates. When a new edition appears, the library is alerted and offered another one-time payment choice

  • Pick and choose option for book series, handbooks and major reference works – allows the library to make its own choice

  • One-time payment option for subject collections (there are 18 of these)

  • All one-time payments have to represent a minimum spend of $1,000

  • Books from Science Direct can be purchased regardless of whether or not the library has a Science Direct site licence

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  • Springer e-book collection won prize for best STM Information Product of 2006

  • Main model is outright purchase, with modest hosting fee

  • Subscription model available for specific collections

  • 15,000 titles available, with 3,000 to be added each year, in 13 subject categories

  • Once a library purchases the collection, its users are allowed unlimited simultaneous access ‘in perpetuity’

  • Integration with Springer’s e-journals collection via SpringerLink

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Taylor & Francis

  • Retail model:

    • Outright purchase by title. 16,500 titles available in four different formats

    • eSubscribe: instant online access to e-content

    • DX Portable: offline access to subscribed / purchased e-content

    • ePrint / e-Copy micropurchase facility

    • eCompile: create your own e-book facility

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Taylor & Francis

  • Institutional model:

    • 30 online e-collections available (or do-it-yourself collections)

    • Each collection may be accessed by outright purchase or annual subscription

    • Subscriptions based on 25% of print cover price for titles in collection

    • Up to five simultaneous users allowed

    • One, two or three year options, with discounts for multi-year deals

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Wiley Interscience

  • One-time fee option:

    • Institution builds customised collection (min 20 titles)

    • Pays once for ongoing access for all titles

    • Pricing based on list price of hardbacks

    • Discount based on institution size / number of titles purchased annually

    • Unlimited concurrent usage

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Wiley Interscience

  • Flexi-Subscription Option:

    • Institution builds customised collection (min 20 titles)

    • Annual flat fee determined by institution size

    • Ongoing access for any title licensed for 3 consecutive years with no further charge (‘auto-subscription’)

    • Titles added midway through subscription year charged at full annual rate; part-year counts towards ‘auto-subscription’

    • Titles can be added, deleted or swapped at renewal date, subject to 20-title minimum rule

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Oxford Scholarship Online

  • Fully searchable full text of about 1200 titles in four subjects (added to at the rate of 200 titles annually)

  • Librarians can choose to purchase or subscribe to either the full collection or individual subject modules

  • Subscriptions negotiated on a site licence basis

  • One-time purchase fee gives access ‘in perpetuity’ (plus modest annual hosting fee)

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Cambridge Collections Online

  • Payment by subscription only on a site licence basis

  • ‘Substantial’ minimum order required, on a by-collection basis (i.e., titles from each collection require a different subscription)

  • Rationale: the payment model is flexible, straightforward, easily-understood and easy to administer

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JISC / CHEMS Feasability report (Oct 2006) knot of complexity?

  • Do libraries prefer to buy from aggregators or direct from publishers?

  • Do they prefer bulk collections, e-books in subject groups, or individual titles?

  • Has there had been any change (since 2004) in preference for

  • purchasing by subject or by collection from either source?

  • Across the sector purchasing individual titles has been, and will continue to be,

  • the favoured approach

  • The second preferred model is to buy subject collections from aggregators

  • Large general collections [from publishers] are least popular

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Gold Leaf ‘straw poll’ study January 2007 knot of complexity?

  • 78 academic librarians were contacted to find out if they would buy a collection of titles from one specific publisher

  • 42 responses received within one week

  • 19 favoured access to a collection from this publisher; 7 didn’t know; 9 were negative, but of these only two preferred access to the titles via aggregators - the other 7 said they weren’t strong enough in the subject concerned to justify the expenditure on e-books for it at all

  • 7 didn’t answer the question



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Gold Leaf ‘straw poll’ study January 2007 knot of complexity?

  • All forty-two respondents answered the question on their preferred pricing method

  • Of these, 50% preferred an outright sale model and 50% preferred a licensing model

  • Several said that the ideal would be to have the choice – a licence option to start with, then outright sale if the collection proved popular

  • Their comments showed a general dislike of aggregators’ pricing models and / or restrictions



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Are publishers better than aggregators, or aggregators better than publishers? The customers’ view:

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Recap: what is the best e-book pricing model? better than publishers? The customers’ view:

  • Flexible

  • Simple

  • Affordable

  • Profitable

  • Brandable!

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The Tangled Web better than publishers? The customers’ view:

Publishers’ and aggregators’ e-book pricing models:

trying to please everybody

Linda Bennett