19 March 2010

Ebooks and Interlibrary Loan

At my current job I'm in charge of the Interlibrary Loan Department and I got to thinking (and yes this is dangerous) ...if we can deliver articles electronically and almost instantly, why not books?  I know not everything is digitized yet or have ebooks companions, but there is a good bit out there.  What if we worked with the vendors to create a collection of ebooks that libraries could have access too and we could "borrow" books for our patrons?  

How cool would that be???  We could change the shape of research and provide almost instant access to materials our patrons need.  Clearly all titles wouldn't be able to be borrowed this way, but I think it would put a good dent in what a lot of libraries are looking for.  And it would allow us to provide faster and better access to our patrons.  Yes they would have to read the book on the computer screen or an ebook reader, but for some of them having instant access will mean a lot more to their research.

How would this work you ask?  My idea in simple terms would be that libraries would have access to a rather large collection of ebooks.  They select the title they need and the system would generate an access link, unique to each request of course.  They would send the link to the patron explaining how the process worked and that the link would expire after a certain time period, say three weeks to a month.

The bigger problem would be pricing.  Vendors of course would want to make money off of this and libraries would want something affordable.  So perhaps a compromise could be reached.  They could charge say $4 to $5 dollars for access to the book or they could charge based upon access to the collection, such as 100-200 books a year would cost $300.

Now you ask why would the vendor want to go with this?  Well I think in the long term they could actually make money off of it.  There could be a clause that after borrowing the same book 3 times the library either has to purchase the book or find other means of getting the material.  It sounds harsh, but the vendor needs something out of this arrangement.  It would also allow them to partner up with a wider range of libraries if the collection was diverse enough.  Public Libraries, Special Libraries, heck even School Libraries could join in, because the collection would be diverse enough to appeal to them.  They wouldn't be purchasing access to a collection that might only have one or two books that appeal to their users, but be able to purchase single access use of a book that would otherwise take a while to acquire (if it all.) 

Yes it would be a lot of work, but I think it would be beneficial to everyone.

So what do y'all think?  Anyone interested in helping me explore this?  Any vendors out there that would be interested in trying out this partnership?

No comments: