“We’re not concerned about piracy,” said George Scotti, Springer Verlag’s director of channel marketing, when asked about the Springer e-book program, which allows institutional customers to lend Springer e-books without DRM protection. Seventy percent of Springer’s business comes from big academic and research libraries, Scotti said, and they are adamant that they don’t want DRM or other such restrictions on the e-books they buy from Springer.

Launched in 2006, Springer’s e-book program offers 40,000 titles in the PDF format in the science, technical, and medical category (including some textbooks). The company consulted with its institutional customers when it designed the program back in 2005. “We showed them our original plans and they said, ‘Start over,’ with no DRM,” said Scotti (although national consumer retailers require DRM on Springer e-books). The result, he said, has been “a better user experience leading to increased usage and a better ROI for the libraries.” Scotti said that Springer e-book downloads (for books and journals) in 2008 were up 33%, and downloads from 2007 to 2009 more than doubled.

“Libraries buy direct from us and they own the content,” he said. “Once users download content, they can give it out, share, whatever. They own it.” Scotti explained that once libraries have paid for the content, the e-books are available without charge to everyone at these institutions, so there’s no need to repost or redistribute it online. Once the e-book is downloaded from the library, no return is necessary. “Some of our competitors are afraid to do this,” Scotti said, “but we say, free the content.’”

Springer e-books are sold as complete books or by the chapter. And while all Springer e-books are currently in PDF format, Scotti said the publisher is looking to add the EPub format in the future. Springer also offers a program called MyCopy, which allows a reader who has downloaded a copy of a Springer e-book to order a black & white bound POD scopy of the book for $24.95. Although Springer does not publish a lot of textbooks, because of the MyCopy pricing, Scotti said Springer textbooks are some of the most popular titles in the MyCopy program. “People often want a print and digital copy,” he said.

“Researchers may need a complete book. Students often need just a chapter,” Scotti said. “Our policy is to give our customers whatever they want.”