I attended a discussion a few weeks ago on the possibility of e-textbooks being sold to libraries. Currently publishers will not sell electronic versions of textbooks to libraries because of the significant loss of income it would mean to them. The discussion panel was created so that both librarians and publishers could understand the other point of view in regards to the want and need for this kind of material.

There is a pdf of some of the powerpoint slides presented. I’ve summarised the speakers and issues below (with help from Bee at work).
The crib notes version basically says: “the e-textbook will not happen for a long while as publishers are not prepared to lose that income stream” (Lim, 2011)

Library Speaker 1 – Pam Freeland – University of NSW Library
UNSW have an e-preferred policy. Academic material is finally starting to show up in e-format, but not a lot of it. There are differences in the term ‘textbook’ in each discipline and the JISC study recognises this. The USA is more prescriptive over what goes into a textbook than UK/Australia is. We’ll use anything as long as it has the information we’d like (and is by a recognised group/author, etc).
Various studies have been done. Major ones to watch out for are:
Australia – Quloc study – a large study with 2000+ respondents. Talks about the difficulty with e-texts from a user experience. And most students said they wanted print and e versions of the textbooks.
Australia – Latrobe University study – small group of nursing students. Found that e-books and DRM are confusing and difficult to use for most students.
Overseas studies – she ran out of time here, but mentioned the importance of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) study from the UK. www.jiscebooksproject.org is their site and they have lots of information.

Library Speaker 2 – Susanne Dowling – Murdoch University Library
Susanne talked about what we do and don’t want in ebooks. Read the pdf to find out these things. Her main argument seemed to be that librarians want e-textbooks more than students do, but students would like the choice.

Library Speaker 3 – Jinny Jones – University of Melbourne Library
Does not have a powerpoint presentation. Jinny spoke about the level of use that textbooks get and the impact this is having on OH&S for staff. Jinny mentioned that they did a survey of 19 titles. These 19 titles had 241 copies held all up in their library. These 19 titles were loaned 13,000 times in a year. That is a significant amount of handling, reshelving, etc. It was very interesting hearing that some libraries (Monash University) can purchase up to 45 copies of a single textbook, so for one textbook item with all 7 day loans, it could possibly be reshelved 10 times in a semester, which is 20 handlings (10 shelving, plus 10 loans). Multiply this by 45 copies and you have 900 times handling the one textbook in a semester. Multiply this by the number of high use items in your short loan area and it is a significant OH&S worry.
If textbooks were to move to an electronic format, that would effectively remove this OH&S problem overnight. Although you’d still need to purchase a limited number of the books, the e-copy would take the bulk of usage.

Publishing Speaker 1 – Elizabeth Weiss – Allen & Unwin
Also does not have a powerpoint presentation. Elizabeth was quite blunt and gave some background on Australian publishing. Australia doesn’t have the large base of users that somewhere like the US does and publishers struggle to make money producing Australian editions of textbooks. If a library buys one e-textbook, the publishers could lose up to 100 sales. This doesn’t sound like a lot but when you only sell 600 copies of a textbook, that’s quite a dent in your profits.
Allen & Unwin sell e-textbooks via ebooks.com but don’t sell many. I wrote that this was probably because it’s not widely advertised, but that’s just my personal view. She also mentioned that many students resist e-texts anyway.

Publishing Speaker 2 – Maryce Johnstone – Gale Cengage Learning
Maryce talked about Gale Cengage’s experiences. She mentioned that although a library would buy up to 40 copies of a physical text, they’ll only buy a single copy of an e-text and expect that it has rights for everyone to use simultaneously and at a similar price to the physical book. This is an unsustainable model for the publishing industry. GaleCengage are trialing with UK publishers and libraries a model where libraries pay a cost somewhere between what the book costs and what the publishers profit would have been (ie between £20 and £10,000). The total cost to a library would never go above £1000. This sounds like a lot, but if you’re a library who buys 45 copies of a $100 textbook, you’re saving money.
The publishers are interested in ways to not lose money like newspapers have. In fact, they’re very worried about the newspaper model which has coloured what people expect to receive online for free. Although they want to provide services to stakeholders, they do need to recoup costs.

Publishing Speaker 3 – Lucy Russell – Wiley
Lucy talked about the costs they want to recoup. She was a figures lady and her presentation was good for me (who is a figures man). Wiley are big enough that they can afford to offer e-textbooks and not lose huge margins. Instead, what they do is provide ‘addons’ to their textbooks. In the US market they must make their textbooks attractive to educational institutions, otherwise they’ll have no profit. Ie First year Psychology textbooks are all very similar, what Wiley do is create online videos, tutorials, exercises, etc that go along with the book and make it more attractive to lecturers. This increases the attractiveness of a book.
Wiley spends between US$50-$200,000 on developing a textbook and up to an extra US$75,000 developing the free addons
For a brand new book:
If there are 1000 students in a course:
Year 1 – 700 units sold (new book with no secondhand copies available)
Year 2 – 400 units sold (as people buy last year’s second hand copy)
Year 3 – 300 units sold (lots of second hand copies now available).
So for a potential of 3000 students, they sell 1400 copies.
$130 new x .909 (GST) x .667 (33% bookstore discount) = $78/copy
Total revenue = US$109,220.
This is the cost we need to make up for that textbook if we offer it free to everyone via e-copy.

EBL-James Bennett Textbook panel

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