When it comes to e-books, publishers may soon be getting report cards from libraries. That’s because, late last week, in conjunction with the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, the American Library Association released a “Business Model Scorecard” to help libraries evaluate the myriad licensing terms under which e-books are being offered to libraries.
The scorecard assesses 15 aspects of digital licenses, including things like price, loan limits, title inclusion, integration, single or multiple access, or the right to switch platforms. Librarians can grade publisher offerings in each category on a scale of 1 to 5, to help them weigh the variables most important for their library.
The scorecard is the latest tool developed and released by the ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG) and follows up a 2012 report, “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,” that described the general features and attributes of the current e-book environment. The DCWG has also released a “Tip Sheet,” on digital rights management, and an ALA Ebook Media Toolkit to help communicate with patrons and local media about e-book restrictions.
While the scorecard will help librarians grade publisher e-book policies, the grades are not pass/fail. As DCWG member Robert Wolven told librarians at ALA the scorecard is a tool, but each library will obviously have different things that are important to them. He compared it to buying a car. “One of things I look for is head room,” Wolven, who is very tall, explained. “Head room may not be important to you.”
In addition, the DCWG will be using the Scorecard in a survey to help create a general “understanding” of what attributes are “most essential to libraries, and whether these attributes vary by library size or other demographic characteristics.”