Elsevier & SSRN Making My Ideal Pub Ecosystem a Reality?

For years I have been banging on to anyone who would listen about how I think journals (i.e. collections of articles that are subjected to pre-publication peer review) are useless. Much better I (and many others) said would be to have disciplinary repositories like arXiv where researchers can deposit all their papers and then have overlay journals that trawl the repositories, picking out the best content and subjecting that content to peer review. The selected papers would then be given a badge – or a series of badges (e.g. selected for peer review in _____; peer reviewed by ______, etc.) to show that they had been selected and the journal would just be links to revised version in the repository. There are many advantages to this arrangement:

  • All results – positive, negative, confirmations, etc. – could be “published” (i.e. put in the repository) and would be discoverable on the open web
  • The peer review load would be dramatically reduced since only those papers thought worthy of inclusion in journals would be peer reviewed
  • There would in theory be cost savings since the repositories would like arXiv be community supported.

The downside to this arrangement is that it would put much more emphasis/strain on journal editors. Though even here there is an upside in that successful editors/editorial boards would likely gain much more prestige than they do today.

News came today that Elsevier had acquired SSRN. Roger Schonfeld writing at the Scholarly Kitchen points out the myriad ways this deal makes sense, for example:

There is a wealth of information in the usage logs of services like SSRN that could help guide editors trying to acquire manuscripts for publication or that could assist business development efforts for journal acquisitions. Also important to watch are SciVal, Pure, and some of Elsevier’s other “research intelligence” offerings. SSRN has extracted and made use of the references in its papers, and its usage data are already used to calculate top papers, top authors, and top organizations. SSRN data will have value for generating “performance” data for papers, authors, and organizations.

Certainly all those things are sensible reasons why Elsevier would be interested in SSRN (or arXiv for that matter). Since I mostly only deal with Elsevier’s legacy publishing business the first sentence really stands out to me. Elsevier is now going to know before anyone else what exciting things are happening in the social sciences and will in theory have first crack at trying to get that content into their journals – raising their prestige and attracting more submissions of quality, virtuous circle, etc. My thought was what if this is actually the first move towards a for-profit/paywalled version of the vision presented above. That is to say, journals as we know them would continue to be paywalled but instead of having authors submit to the journal, the journal staff/algorithms would simply crawl SSRN and pick out the promising working papers and invite those authors to submit their papers the appropriate journal. That smaller and more manageable group of papers would then be peer reviewed. There’s lots of details that would have to be worked out but if you had decided the current way things are done were insufficiently profitable (or were going to be insufficiently profitable in the near to medium future) this is the kind of move you would make.

I’ll close by saying I think Schonfeld is probably closer to the mark than my wild speculations but this acquisition does raise some very interesting possibilities.


Leveraging the Big ebook Deals of Others

Summary: I want to be able to DDA the titles on Scholars Portal that are part of the big ebook deals my school is too poor to take part in. I haven’t fully fleshed out what would be involved but here is the rough sketch.

DDA on the Scholars Portal E-Book Platform
Preamble: At present some OCUL schools are able to participate in a variety of big ebook deals and load that content on Scholars Portal. For those OCUL schools that cannot afford to participate in the big deals but who may still want to have access to some of the titles in the deal access options are tricky. The title might not be available for individual purchase or if it is it might only be available through an undesirable platform. It would be better if those schools could leverage, using DDA, the content that is already being loaded on Scholars Portal as part of these big deals. In this way the schools that couldn’t afford the big deal could access the titles their patrons need, the publishers would get paid for the content that was used and Scholars Portal ebooks would become the preferred ebook platform in Ontario.

Proposal: Working with YBP the following steps would have to be taken:

  1. SP would have to develop a trigger system on the ebook platform. Mimicking the triggers used by other vendors would make it more likely that publishers would play ball.
  2. SP would have to develop a means of notifying YBP of holdings info on the platform so that it could be listed in GOBI.
  3. SP would have to develop software to notify YBP when a title has been triggered.
  4. YBP would have to modify GOBI in such a way that SP could be integrated into DDA plans like any other aggregator.
  5. YBP would handle all the billing – it is possible that their current processes for handling DDA plans would be adequate for this to work.


    • Leverages existing partnerships with YBP.
    • Integrates into existing workflows.
    • Gives new purchasing options to schools that don’t for whatever reason participate in some of the ebook big deals.


    • Convincing publishers to allow their content to be used in this way.
    • Modifying the existing ebook platform to create DDA triggers.
    • Entitlement monitoring.

Open Access: That other thing you should be spending your money on

Update Dig this article from C&RL News: Funding Open Access (h/t @newtonmiller)

Here are the links that I mention
Examples of Open Access Author Fund Criteria

Data for APCs
Figshare search

Examples of membership agreements
Biomed Central
Sage Open

Examples of Infrastructure agreements
Open Library of Humanities

Open Monographs
Knowledge Unlatched
Palgrave’s APC model

Patron Driven Acquisition and its Discontents

Yesterday I got kind of rage-y after reading A Skeptic’s View of Patron-Driven Acquisitions: Is it Time to ask the Tough Questions? [paywall] from the most recent issue of Technical Services Quarterly. The authors spend most of the article flogging the straw-man of unfettered patron-driven acquisition (PDA) and the possible nefarious consequences of that.  In the real world unfettered PDA is not really an issue – it hasn’t been my experience and I have yet to hear of another library that doesn’t in some way limit access to the potential pool of titles (even if it’s something simple like forcing students to click an extra link to get to the PDA platform). This is not to say that all is sunshine and roses in PDA land. There are, in my opinion, some very serious problems that I think need to be highlighted, discussed and conquered. Here’s 3:

1. Content

There is a significant amount of content from reputable publishers like Oxford, Cambridge et al. that is not available through any of the PDA platforms (in some cases there isn’t even an e-version you can buy). I can only speculate that publishers are doing this to give us some incentive to buy their big deals or little deals or packages that live on their websites. I’ll just state publicly here that there is no more money for new big deals at my school and there is a very good chance that we are going to be breaking up 1 or more big deals in the next few years.

Request #1: Publishers please make all your content available through PDA.

2. Integration with Existing Workflows

Because I currently use someone other than YBP as my principle monograph vendor I’m not able to offer multi-vendor PDA to my users in a targeted and easily controlled way. This has a few consequences: our program is limited to the content of a single vendor; and it is more difficult for staff to control the content that is being included in our PDA program. Luckily, our users have mostly confined themselves to using suitable academic content but it has created a problem with duplicate purchases. In my opinion our program would be much more effective if we could just use our monograph vendor to run a PDA program across a number of vendors using our existing monograph profiles.
Request #2: Monograph vendors and PDA vendors please make greater efforts to work together to allow all libraries to run cross platform PDA schemes

3. Platforms

Without getting into the problems with books in browsers / serious reading on your screen/tablet/phone / &c. I’d like to talk about preservation and alternative hosting arrangements. Here in Ontario we have a pretty robust infrastructure for local hosting of ebooks and journals. However, my current PDA vendor does not allow me to locally host content or even dark archive it on our existing infrastructure. They say that this licensing point comes from their agreements with publishers. Quite frankly, this is a ridiculous restriction on content that we have paid for. Especially since in most cases our platform already hosts some content from the publisher in question (i.e. mostly consortial big deals)
Request #3: Publishers please allow my PDA vendor to give me the files necessary to locally load the content that I’ve purchased.

There’s lots more to deal with – the reading issue for instance, but these three are a good place to start.

Demand/Patron Driven Acquisition: Common Concerns

Brock is currently implementing a Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA) strategy for ebooks.  I created the following literature review to help give my colleagues a sense of the issues around DDA and to answer some of the questions they had.  It’s not really in a publishable form right now but perhaps I’ll get around to editing/beefing it up someday…


Thus far, I have been unable to find a library that started doing some form of demand/patron – driven selection only to later stop doing it. For a good literature review on the subject I invite all of you to read Tyler et al. (2011) which addresses the literature around many of the concerns that are voiced below. Also, Sword’s book Patron-Driven Acquisitions: History and Best Practices is a good place to look for broad overviews.

On Electronic vs. Print

There was a general question about DDA necessarily privileging electronic over print and the extra cost that that would entail.  It is true that how we have proposed to do DDA only deals with electronic content but it is possible to do something similar with print. At MUN we did a print DDA program, purchasing ILL requests for books when it was going to be more expedient to buy a copy rather than wait for another library to send us their copy.  The criteria for this program were that the book had to have been published in the last 3 10 years, not be a textbook, and be scholarly.  MUN is hardly alone in running a print DDA program in this fashion there are a number of papers about the subject. For example: Perdue & Van Fleet (1999) talk about Bucknell’s implementation; Hodges, Preston & Hamilton (2010) talk about Ohio State’s efforts; and Ward (2002; 2003) has written about Purdue and Wisconsin-Madison’s programs.  Several essays in Sword (2011) mention these programs as a precursor to DDA with e-books.

Part of this question also dealt with the idea that electronic copies are more expensive than print. Certainly, if Esposito et al. (2012) are to be believed publishers see electronic as being vastly more expensive than print. My contention is that DDA of e-books will save money up front and over time. I will concede that the upfront cost of purchase of most e-books is at least x% (i.e. our discount with Ingram) more expensive than print. Purchase is underlined above because part of the appeal of DDA of e-books is that we aren’t limited to outright purchase of titles. By substituting short term loans for some purchases we will limit our outright purchases and that should in turn limit our up front spending. Assessing life cycle costs are more difficult. Courant & Nielsen (2010) estimate the life cycle cost of a print book to vary between $0.86 per year for high density storage of items that do not receive high circulation to $4.26 per year if we use open stacks like we have. These figures are per book per year. As a comparison, Courant and Nielsen (2010) provide data on storage costs for the Hathi Trust of $0.40/book/year.  This number is not as helpful for our purposes because we will not be the ones running the servers, hosting the content, etc.  Instead we pay platform fees.  Ebrary, for example, has a platform fee that varies with a number of criteria but is no more than a few hundred dollars per year.

Even though no one mentioned it numerous studies show that there is still a strong user preference towards print. For example, another OCUL is just finishing up the analysis of a study looking at user preferences that found a preference for print at every level. Given the relatively small pool of funds we will be working with initially we will still be purchasing the majority of our items in print.

On Costs and Funding

There were several questions about funding the program and ensuring an equitable distribution of purchases. The question of how other schools have funded their DDA programs came up more than once.  In my experience most schools have done one of three things: started with a limited trial where one subject area devotes some of their monograph money (e.g. Herrera, 2012; De Fino & Lo, 2011); used one time money or repurposed money from elsewhere in the budget (e.g. Mays 2013); took a slice off the top of their monograph budget (e.g. Reiners 2012). My preferred method is to take a slice off the top of the monograph budget but at present that isn’t feasible because of some issues with our monograph accounts.

Several people felt that contributing to the DDA pilot would disadvantage their subject areas since their areas are not monograph based. The literature indicates that these concerns are misplaced.  Price and McDonald’s (2009) data would seem to refute that notion. In their study of purchasing data from 5 schools DDA purchases were very similar in LC class distribution to librarian purchases (with the exception of one school where users picked a more balanced selection of titles – since the data was anonymized the authors couldn’t follow up to ask the library if the skewed distribution was by design). Similar results can be seen in Fischer et al. (2012); Hodges, Preston & Hamilton (2010); Print DDA programs have shown similar results (see e.g. Nixon 2010)

There was also concern about the idea that some purchases will be triggered on a departmental fund by students/faculty not affiliated with the subject area of the book.  This concern comes from a misunderstanding of how the program would work.  There will be one central pool of funds which will be built from contributions from departmental funds. Once the funds are in the pool there will be no way to assign purchases to a specific department.  Purchases will not be attributed to a specific fund.

The fairness issue was also manifested in concerns about the process by which any unspent money in the DDA program would be given back to Liaisons.  This concern is something that we will have to deal with when we come across it.  My preference here is to proportionally divide any remaining funds according to which contributing funds benefitted least from the DDA program.

An issue that comes up a lot in the literature is schools quickly going whatever money they set aside for DDA and having to allocate more funding to the project. The common thread among these studies (which are too numerous to list here) is that they were almost all conducted before or during 2010 on platforms that had really low purchase triggers of 2-5 uses (where a use was looking at a page) and did not allow short term loans.  Way and Garrison (2011) have a really good background read on the cost issue and then provide data to show how STLs and more generous triggers save costs.

On Philosophical Concerns

There were three major interrelated philosophical concerns. Firstly, there was the concern that implementing DDA is an abrogation of our duties as Librarians and is essentially deskilling and outsourcing collection development. This concern seems to make the assumption that DDA will be giving our users complete control over our collection development work. This view is incorrect. Our users will only have access to a limited pool of titles.  The creation of that pool will be created to comply with our Collection Development Policies.  The creation of the criteria to determine what goes in that pool is just as dependent on our local knowledge as our current book selection processes. Moreover, until such time as publishers decide to open their catalogues more there will continue to be a need for selectors to pick the individual titles that the publishers choose to not offer through DDA (and in some cases not offer electronically at all).

The second concern is that the collection purchased through DDA will be unbalanced and not stand the test of time; essentially, our expertise is required to build a better collection. The literature is clear on this point: librarians do a really good job of building balanced collections but when we start making comparisons based on usage librarian built collections simply are not used as much as patron built collections. For example, an analysis by Tyler et al. (2013) of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s print DDA program showed that books selected by patrons circulated an average of 1.96 times compared with 1.37 times for librarian selected materials and a paltry 1.06 times for items acquired through a book vendor approval plan. For a longer time horizon Nixon and Saunders (2011) looked at Purdue’s program of print DDA over an 8 year span and found that books bought on demand circulated 0.7 circulations more than normally acquired titles (3.1 vs 2.4).  On the ebook side McDonald and Price (2009) used anonymized data provided by EBL that covered 11 different libraries. They compared a sample of 10988 “user-selected” ebooks with a sample of 4685 “pre-selected” ebooks.  Usage statistics were substituted for circulation statistics and painted a clear picture: user-selected titles were used more (8.61 vs. 4.31 times / year) and by more people (around 5 unique users vs 2).  As mentioned above users in McDonald and Price’s data also selected titles according to roughly the same subject distribution as librarians.

The third concern is that we are doing our collection harm by “renting” access to titles. Philosophically, I agree that renting is definitely sub-optimal. However, we simply don’t have the budget to buy all the materials that a decent research collection should own and the trends in the publishing industry are definitely against us (see Levine-Clark 2011). Baring a major infusion of cash I don’t see how the library can, in good conscience, ignore such a powerful tool. Swords (2010) presents data from Grand Valley State University that shows that GVSU saved over $130,000 by using 2 short term loans prior to purchasing. This data is fleshed out more fully in a presentation by Way (2011).

On Content Concerns

Many of you were concerned that we would have insufficient control of the pool of titles. Obviously different vendors give different options but all the interfaces that I’ve seen (i.e. EBL, ebrary, Ebsco) allow inclusion and exclusion based on publisher, date, LC class, Dewey call number, subject heading, keyword, author, title.  This would give us similar control to what we currently have with our slip profiles.  Alternatively, with the announcement that EBSCO and EBL will be listed in OASIS in the near future it may be possible to run our DDA program through Ingram using our existing profiles.

A subsidiary concern is that it will take so much effort to create the rules governing the potential purchase pool that it would be easier for liaisons to continue to pick the good stuff title by title. As stated above librarians will still be picking the majority of titles for the collection due to restrictions on availability inside the DDA pool and the limited nature of our funding. In terms of creating the rules that govern the pool there would have to be some discussion among librarians to decide what acceptable parameters are. Typically rules are quite broad for example price less than $250; must be English language; only from publishers x, y, z; only in subjects p, q, r; etc.

On Assessment Concerns

There was some concern over whether or not usage was the only way to assess the trial. More generally, people wondered what other places had done in terms of assessment of their programs.  There seems to be two primary forms of assessment: usage, and subject specialist opinion. Usage comparisons usually take the form shown by Price & McDonald (2009) of calculating use per year (i.e. how many uses did a title get from the first time it was triggered) and comparing that use to the use of librarian selected ebooks.  The other primary form of assessment has been using liaison librarians.  Shen et al. (2011) had selectors look at the DDA list before the trial started and pick the titles that they would purchase if the DDA program didn’t exist.  This list was then compared to the eventual purchases made during the course of the trial. Most frequently in the literature the liaison assessment has come at the conclusion of a trial with liaison’s examining the list purchases and noting how may items in their area were unsuitable. Way (2009) took this a step further and did a comparison of DDA purchases with peer library holdings using WorldCat.  Levine-Clark (2011) lays out a number of assessment criteria that essentially blend elements of what has been mentioned above.

Works Consulted

NOTE: this list contains the works cited above and a selection of what I read in preparing this report.  The literature around this topic is vast and even the literature reviews I’ve read have left out studies that I think are important.

Chan, G. R. Y. C. (2004). Purchase Instead of Borrow. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply, 14(4), 23–37. doi: 10.1300/J110v14n04_03

Courant, P. N. & Nielsen, B. (2010) On the Cost of Keeping a Book. in Council on Library and Information Resources. (2010). The idea of order: transforming research collections for 21st century scholarship. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 81-105. http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub147/pub147.pdf

Crane, E., & Snyder, L. (2013). Patron-Driven Acquisition Optimization at Liberty University. Faculty Publications and Presentations. Retrieved from http://works.bepress.com/erin_crane/5

De Fino, M. (2011). New Roads for Patron-Driven E-Books: Collection Development and Technical Services Implications of a Patron-Driven Acquisitions Pilot at Rutgers. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 23(4), 327–338. doi: 10.1080/1941126X.2011.627043

Dillon, D. (2011). Texas Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Controlling Costs in a Large-Scale PDA Program. In Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.157

Esposito, J. J., Walker, K., & Ehling, T. (2012). PDA and the University Press. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 44(3), s1-s62. doi: 10.3138/jsp.44.3.011

Fischer, K. S., Wright, M., Clatanoff, K., Barton, H., & Shreeves, E. (2012). Give ’Em What They Want: A One-Year Study of Unmediated Patron-Driven Acquisition of e-Books. College & Research Libraries, 73(5), 469–492. http://crl.acrl.org/content/73/5/469

Fountain, K. C. (2010). Just Passing Through: Patron-Initiated Collection Development in Northwest Academic Libraries. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 185–195. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486745

Herrera, G. (2012). Deliver the eBooks Your Patrons and Selectors Both Want! PDA Program at the University of Mississippi. The Serials Librarian, 63(2), 178–186. doi: 10.1080/0361526X.2012.700780

Hodges, D. , Preston, C. & Hamilton, M.J. (2010). Patron-Initiated Collection Development: Progress of a Paradigm Shift. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 208–221. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486968

John McDonald. (2013, March 17). Ebook Availability Revisited: A Quantitative Analysis of the 2012 E… Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/john_mcdonald/20121108-mcdonald-price-chs-ebooks-revisited

Lamothe, A. R. (2013). Comparing Usage Between Selective and Bundled E-Monograph Purchases. Collection Building, 32(3), 116–121. doi: 10.1108/CB-03-2013-006

Levine-Clark, M. (2011). Building a Demand-Driven Collection: The University of Denver Experience. in Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.45

Mays, A. (2013). Biz of Acq – PDA, Circulation, and Over-Budget Requests: Harnassing Data to Inform Library Strategies. Against the Grain, 25(1), 65–69.

Nixon, J. M. (2010). A Study of Circulation Statistics of Books on Demand: A Decade of Patron-Driven Collection Development, Part 3. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 151–161. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486963

Nixon, J. M., Freeman, R. S., & Ward, S. M. (2010). Patron-Driven Acquisitions: An Introduction and Literature Review. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 119–124. doi:10.1080/01462679.2010.486957

Perdue, J. & Van Fleet, J.(1999). Borrow or Buy? Cost-Effective Delivery of Monographs. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply, 9(4), 19–28. doi: 10.1300/J110v09n04_04

Price, J., & McDonald, J. (2009). Beguiled by Bananas: A Retrospective Study of the Usage and Breadth of Patron vs.Llibrarian Acquired eBook Collections. Library Staff Publications and Research. Retrieved from http://scholarship.claremont.edu/library_staff/9

Reiners, L. A. (2012). Patron-driven acquisition: the experience of three university libraries. SCONUL Focus, (55), 33–37. http://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/11.pdf

Schroeder, R. (2012). When patrons call the shots: patron-driven acquisition at Brigham Young University. Collection Building, 31(1), 11–14. doi: 10.1108/01604951211199128

Shen, L. (2011). Head First into the Patron-Driven Acquisition Pool: A Comparison of Librarian Selections Versus Patron Purchases. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 23(3), 203–218. doi: 10.1080/1941126X.2011.601224

Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030

Swords, D. A. (2010) Financial Importance of Short-term loaning eBooks, a Case Study.  No Shelf Required. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://www.libraries.wright.edu/noshelfrequired/2010/06/23/short-term-loaning-ebooks-a-case-study/

Thomas, J., Racine, H., & Shouse, D. (2013). eBooks and Efficiencies in Acquisitions Expenditures and Workflows. Against the Grain, 25(2), 14–18.

Tyler, D. C. (2010). Just How Right Are the Customers? An Analysis of the Relative Performance of Patron-Initiated Interlibrary Loan Monograph Purchases. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 162–179. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.487030

Tyler, D. C. (2013). Patron-Driven Acquisition and Circulation at an Academic Library: Interaction Effects and Circulation Performance of Print Books Acquired via Librarians’ Orders, Approval Plans, and Patrons’ Interlibrary Loan Requests. Collection Management, 38(1), 3–32. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2012.730494

Walters, W. H. (2012). Patron-Driven Acquisition and the Educational Mission of the Academic Library. Library Resources & Technical Services, 56(3), 199–213. doi: 10.5860/lrts.56n3.199

Ward, S. M. (2002). Books on Demand. The Acquisitions Librarian, 14(27), 95–107. doi:10.1300/J101v14n27_12

Ward, S. M. (2003). Collection development based on patron requests: collaboration between interlibrary loan and acquisitions. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 27(2), 203–213. doi: 10.1016/S1464-9055(03)00051-4

Way, D. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions: Transforming Library Collections in the Virtual Environment. Presented at the Michigan State University. Retrieved from http://works.bepress.com/doug_way/21

Way, D. & Garrison, J. (2011) Financial Implications of Demand-Driven Acquisitions: A Case Study of the Value of Short Term Loans. In Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter, 137-156. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.137