Proposed Global Library Consortium for Academic Ebooks

In another big meeting of publishers and librarians recently took place at Harvard during which the idea of a Global Library Consortium (GLC) was presented.  Here’s how it would work according to the Publishers Weekly article:

The GLC proposal would operate on a similar basis [to SCOAP3], with libraries pooling together into a membership coalition that purchases the rights to titles offered by participating publishers. Those books would then be made available on an open access basis, perhaps with Creative Commons license terms. Libraries would place bids for each offered title into a pool, in a fashion similar to the way Groupon works; if there was sufficient interest to hit the price trigger point, the publisher would release the title into the open access pool with costs apportioned among participating institutions. Once made open access, titles would be publicly readable through a web browser interface, but downloadable PDFs or EPUBs would only be freely available to GLC members.

The GLC proposal offers a number of very significant advantages. Primarily, it would stabilize the scholarly monograph market by compensating publishers for their fixed costs in producing their first copy. It also retains a measure of competition by specifying that the more attractive book delivery formats (PDF, EPUB) are sold commercially outside of the GLC membership. It also reduces press overhead by partially releasing marketing and sales staff from the vagaries of having to sell to an unknown number of university library buyers.

But as with all propesed ebook distribution models, there are concerns by the publishers on profitability.  They must figure out how to price items across the board when popular and more obscure are offered in the same pool.  However, with tighter budgets, libraries may not want to buy in to an entire pool.  Other challenges covered in the article include technical ones including online access versus download and full-text versus metadata searching.

Read the Publishers Weekly article Academic E-Books: Innovation and Transition.