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79 7 E-BOOKS: BUSINESS PLANNING FOR THE DIGITAL LIBRARY Hazel Woodward History and background E-books as a significant component of the digital library have been around for about a decade but, apart from a visionary description of the ‘Memex’ – a conceptual device used to store, retrieve and display books - made by Vannevar Bush in 1945 (Bush, 1945), the first real attempt to make books available online was in 1971 when Michael Hart keyed in the words of the Declaration of Independence, thus starting Project Gutenberg (Project Gutenberg). Over 20,000 public domain books are now accessible from this freely available service. By the late 1990s a number of publishers and vendors were beginning to experiment with making electronic versions of books available for purchase on the Internet. This was a time-consuming and expensive process as, not only did it involve keying or scanning printed texts into a different format, it also involved obtaining the rights to sell the e-book format. One of the first aggregator companies to offer an e-book service to libraries was NetLibrary (NetLibrary, 2009) in 1999 with an investment of $120 million. The startup service provided access to some 2,000 titles from a range of different publishers. NetLibrary was quickly followed by Questia (Questia, 2009) in 2000 and ebrary in 2001. Both these companies experimented with offering services directly to end users as well as marketing to libraries. In 2001, when the Internet bubble burst, NetLibrary began having financial difficulties, and in 2002 it was bought by OCLC who are its current owners. Confidence in e-books waned, but many publishers did continue to build their e-book portfolios – Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, Wiley and Oxford University Press, to name just a few. As well as building their own e-book platforms most publishers also sold their titles on to aggregators. In 2004 MyiLibrary (MyiLibrary, 2009) and Ebook Library (Ebook Library, 2009) launched their services to libraries, attempting to offer innovative and flexible purchasing models. Most publishers and librarians would agree that the uptake of the scholarly monograph e-book (which is the major component of the publisher and aggregator services referred to above) has been slow. In 2005 the European Commission commented that “the low level of sales [of e-books] has meant that no tracking has been established”, and this seems to still hold true today (Vassilou, 2008). The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) states: “Defining e-books for the purposes of sales reporting involves confronting several questions. Most people in the book business readily agree that sales of e-books for use on personal computers and dedicated reading devices should be included. But BPDG_opmaak_12072010.indd 79 13/07/10 11:51 Hazel Woodward 80 what about part of books, such as chapters, sold separately in electronic format? What about textual databases? Electronic course materials? Downloadable audio books? Customised electronic products?” (Bennett, 2009). It is extremely difficult to obtain accurate and up-to-date statistics on e-books. Although e-books represent only a small proportion of the total book market, the number of e-books available has grown hugely. Just (2007) claims an average annual rate of growth of about 20%, but that is put into perspective by the fact that in 2006 only 135,492 e-books were available in the US compared to 1,218,397 printed books. Gray also quotes comparable figures from the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) showing that in 2004 there were 70,000 e-books published in the US with a sales revenue of $45 million, and in 2005 100,000 e-books were published with a revenue of $57 million (Gray, 2007). The most recent figures available from the IDPF show that for the first eleven months of 2008, e-book sales were up by 64% and e-book sales were up 108% for the month of November 2008 - but these data only represent returns from 13 US publishers and are based on wholesale figures only (Coker, 2009). The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (2008) documents that expenditure on e-monographs across its member libraries has grown from $1,127,372 in 1999/2000 to $6,048,491 in 2006/2007 – a 436% increase. However, this still represents a small percentage of their total spend on books. According to Blummer, in the US in 2005/2006 e-books represented only 5% of academic library book collections and 2% of public library collections. The reasons for the slow uptake have been well...


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