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The economics of publishing on the Web is prompting a shift from ownership of a local print copy to access to a remote electronic copy. It is more efficient for publishers or vendors to host content on the Web, in a location that users can access from any place at any time, than to sustain the print model, where materials are printed, distributed, bound, and retained locally. Libraries are questioning the need to retain print copies locally when material is reliably available online.

In order to assess the impact of electronic publishing on acquisitions and weeding, the Planning Group retained industry consultants to conduct research on the availability of current and previously published books and journals in electronic form. Rick Lugg of R2 Consulting Services addressed e-book issues, and October Ivins and Marilyn Geller addressed e-journal issues. The results of their research, performed in fall 2001, are presented in this section and the full reports are available in Appendixes 4 and 5 at The Planning Group then considered the e-publishing landscape to evaluate its potential impact on Tri-College collections and space.

Trends in E-Books

The total number of paperback and hardbound books published in the United States in 2000, according to the 2001 Bowker Annual, was slightly less than 100,000, down from 120,000 in 1998. The average number of academic print titles handled on approval plans for 2000Ð2001, according to Blackwell’s and Yankee Book Peddler, ranged between 40,000 and 50,000. Books in Print estimates that the total number of e-books, regardless of year issued, is about 40,000.

Although e-books have not yet enjoyed commercial success, between 80 percent and 100 percent of academic publishers are converting their titles into PDF, XML, and OEB standards that provide them with greater options for electronic distribution and print on demand. Rick Lugg estimates that by 2004 most academic publishers will have their new titles in format-neutral repositories, making possible print-on-demand or electronic publishing.

E-books are currently available from three sources: intermediaries that serve as a distribution channel, publishers hosting the content themselves, and libraries initiating projects sometimes in conjunction with publishers.

Intermediaries present the works of many publishers and are the most visible source of book content in electronic form. Although netLibrary and Questia have 25,000 and 40,000 volumes, respectively, of predominantly older titles, neither had a sustainable economic model. Ebrary accepts books only in PDF format. This strategy allows them to secure newer content. They have approximately 20,000 titles. The most successful intermediaries at this point have a discipline focus; they include Knovel (engineering reference works), Ovid (nursing titles), Xrefer (linked reference works), and Books 24×7 (technology titles).

Publishers such as Gale, MacMillan, Wiley, and Oxford University Press are offering small well-respected collections in electronic form. The Mellon Foundation has been funding the exploration of various approaches. Two of these include Bibliovault at the University of Chicago, which offers more than 5,000 titles from 20 university presses available on demand (, and the History E-Book Project at the American Council of Learned Societies, which is working to convert more than 500 back list titles of significance in history and to publish 85 new electronic titles. (

Library-sponsored initiatives include the University of Virginia’s Electronic Text Center (, which offers 1,800 public domain titles available in MS Reader and Palm formats. The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, comprising the Big Ten Athletic Conference and the University of Chicago, is developing a cooperative pilot to make their current university press titles available in PDF format to their member libraries. (

At Carnegie Mellon, University Librarian Gloriana St. Clair and Raj Reddy, the Simon Professor of Computer and Robotics, are developing the Universal Library. Their goal is to digitize one million books at sites in India and China. They have completed a pilot of 100 books with funding from the National Science Foundation and they are expecting additional funding to support shipping of books overseas for conversion, selecting books, clearing copyrights, developing a scalable database, and doing related research on text language processing and automatic metadata creation programs. (

University of Pennsylvania (UP) has partnered with Oxford and Cambridge University Presses to create History Books Online for research purposes. With funding from the Mellon Foundation, UP is hosting all Oxford and Cambridge University Press history titles since 1999 to study classroom and research applications and the relationship between print and electronic book use and sales. The Tri-College consortium is participating in this experiment. (


Publishers use short-run digital printing and standard distribution methods with their major printing partners to deliver small orders of books (e.g., between 25 and 300 copies). This allows them to control their inventory costs and extend the life cycle of low-demand titles. Most publishers have PDF versions of front list and backlist titles that they can store cost-effectively and print as needed.

Cost-effective hardware should be available in the next two years to deliver on the promise of print-on-demand, enabling a single copy to be produced at point of sale. This approach will allow for electronic distribution and local printing. Vendors that store electronic files for publishers and print them as needed include Lightning Source, owned by Ingram, which hosts 100,000 books from 1,300 publishers, and Informata, owned by Baker and Taylor, which launched its “Ed” delivery system in 2002.

As print-on-demand becomes more widely available, libraries will no longer have to acquire potentially lower-use books at the time they are published. If it is combined with e-books that can be viewed all or in part, libraries are likely to acquire core materials in print, but access other materials online, with the option for quick delivery of a complete print copy.

Using electronic versions and print-on-demand to stand in for low-use older materials that are weeded or stored off-site is an appealing idea; however, the cost of securing electronic rights for back list and out-of-print titles, combined with the cost of scanning and converting the content, precludes the rapid conversion of older materials by publishers. The Carnegie Mellon University Million Book project will be an important test of whether this approach is feasible.

Trends in E-Journals

The June 2002 issue of Library Systems Newsletter documents the number of scholarly journals available in electronic form that are indexed in the Institute for Scientific Information’s Citation Indexes. Of the 8,500 journals included in these indexes, 75 percent of those in the Science category, 64 percent in the Social Science category, and 34 percent in the Arts and Humanities category are available in electronic form. EBSCO’s Electronic Journal Service lists 8,000 e-journals. Some industry experts estimate that as many as 10,000 journals are now available in electronic form.

Library decisions about the location and disposition of journal back files in print are dependent on the availability of these journals in electronic form. October Ivins conducted a survey of 15 publishers (six society, seven commercial, and two university presses) and four publisher service providers to determine their plans.

Intermediaries for journals included in the survey are publisher service providers who offer a conversion or hosting service such as Ingenta, BioOne, Highwire, or JSTOR. Aggregators who must rely on a contract with the publisher for their content (ProQuest, EBSCOhost, Gale) are not included in this report because of the variability of their content.

The publisher service providers verified the trend toward converting back files and noted that cost is the limiting factor. JSTOR is focusing on converting the back files of journals. It is intentionally keeping two to five years behind current publication to protect publishers’ subscription incomes.

Publishers surveyed as societies included the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics, American Mathematical Society, Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Institute of Physics. Commercial publishers included Blackwell Publishing, Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons, Kluwer, Academic, Lawrence Erlbaum, Springer Verlag, and Taylor & Francis. University presses included Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.

The society publishers surveyed have more than 90 percent of their 663 journals in both print and electronic forms; commercial publishers have only 33 percent of their 6,688 journals in both forms. Only 12 society and 39 commercial publishers publish journals exclusively in electronic form. Many publishers are converting their pricing to electronic with a surcharge for print (rather than print with an electronic surcharge) and offering electronic-only subscription options.

ACM has converted almost its entire back file, and Elsevier has an aggressive commitment to convert more than 1,440 titles by 2005. Seven other publishers are selecting titles to convert or converting all their titles retrospectively in stages by decades. Their progress is dependent on economic conditions, technological developments, and evolving market preferences. Forty percent of the publishers do not have major conversion plans for their back files because of the expense and the concern that libraries may not be willing to pay for back file access.

Use of Electronic Journals

Preliminary results from the University of California’s Mellon-funded Collection Management Initiative indicate that although use of print journals is higher when the print copy is located on site, digital versions are used one to two times more frequently than print versions overall.

Retention of Print

Marilyn Geller, who was project director of a Mellon grant for digital preservation at Harvard University, advised retaining access to print versions after a journal back file has been made available online until the content of the electronic version is equal to or better than that of its print counterpart. The publishers surveyed echoed this advice and expressed concern about the lack of standards, inconsistencies in converting content, and future problems with data migration.

Bibliographic Control

Obtaining clear holding and licensing data on e-journal subscriptions is difficult because e-journals are frequently licensed in conjunction with the print or as part of a collection of journals that includes many titles not previously held by the library. Integrated library systems’ modules for dealing with print subscriptions do not yet address control issues for electronic journals and collections. To overcome this problem, the Tri-College Consortium created an Electronic Resources Tracking System (ERTS) in FileMaker to track administrative metadata for electronic subscriptions held by each college. This database could be expanded to include call numbers, the number of bound volumes, title changes, ISSNs, and other pertinent data.

Key Findings

  • Print-on-demand is likely to be available from many publishers or distributors within two to three years. If this service is combined with an online preview option and comes from a reliable source, it could reduce the need for “just in case” purchases of titles peripheral to the curriculum.
  • Collections of current e-books are limited because of a variety of factors, including the lack of a sustainable economic model.
  • Collections of electronic versions of older books are limited because of the cost of acquiring the electronic rights and digitizing each title.
  • E-books currently show the greatest potential for use as reference works and for quick access to limited sections of a work for research or reserve reading. The lack of comfortable reading systems discourages their use for substantial reading.
  • Most major journal publishers, both commercial and society, have programs in place to convert back runs of their titles to electronic form. However, it is not clear whether content will completely duplicate that of print journals in all cases.
  • The reliability of the archives of journals is a major concern when decisions are made about retention of print copies.
  • Journal publishers currently advise against discarding back runs of converted titles and urge retention of or access to print for the near term.

Trends in Electronic Publishing

To assess the impact of electronic publishing on space planning, the Planning Group attempted to estimate the amount of space that could be saved through the various e-publishing initiatives, including current journal subscriptions, converted back files of journals, e-books available from the publisher, less current e-books that have been converted and made available through intermediaries, and the Government Printing Office’s electronic collection within the Federal Depository Library Program.

The long-term availability of online equivalents from a “trusted source” (that is, a publisher or a publisher service provider) is the most important criterion used by libraries that are deciding whether to withdraw print journals and cancel print subscriptions. The Planning Group felt slightly more confident in nonprofit organizations because they are under less pressure to produce a return on investment and more committed to sustaining the service than for-profit groups are. The pricing model is also a factor, because future electronic access might be jeopardized by price increases. Additional factors included whether the title was indexed, the completeness of its content, and local requirements for print versions.


At present, the industry does not offer a book reader that competes in ease of use or affordability with the printed book when a patron wants to read substantial portions of the text. Library patrons and staff are finding that e-books are most useful as reference works and when access to only a part of the book is needed (for example, when books are evaluated for print purchase or when extracts are needed for reserve use).

Twenty leading publishers accounted for 20 percent of the books acquired in 2001 by the Tri-Colleges, and approximately half of these titles are likely to be available in electronic form by the end of 2003. However, given the lack of suitable reading devices and the unknowable long-term future for e-books, the libraries expect to continue buying print copies of needed books. As e-book availability increases, and depending on pricing models, access to a database of current e-books online could serve as a preview and a backup tool. Such availability, particularly in conjunction with print-on-demand services, might make it possible to reduce the duplication of print copies. Any reduction in duplication through this means is likely to be gradual and might be used to purchase a broader range of titles; for this reason, the Planning Group did not predict any near-term or strong effect of e-books on the collection growth rate.

Electronic collections of older books have been slow to develop because of the cost and the difficulties in securing copyright clearances. As the Million Book Digital Library Project becomes fully operational, it may offer the Tri-Colleges an opportunity to convert books they might otherwise consider storing off-site. Since this project is still in its pilot phase, the Planning Group did not project any specific space savings.


In its discussions of e-journals and space, the Planning Group focused on the reliability of publisher or supplier back files and on the concerns of faculty members. The Tri-Colleges have already been reducing or eliminating print runs and making binding decisions on the basis of these criteria, applied on a title-by-title basis. Because back file security is a concern for all academic libraries, many national initiatives are addressing it. Improvements will most likely continue, but their pace cannot be predicted.

Reference Databases

No market research was done on trends in electronic publication of abstracts and indexes and similar services. The Planning Group believes that such publication is now the norm; it is no longer an emerging trend. In the last five years, all three libraries have freed significant amounts of reference shelf space by discarding print reference works and canceling print subscriptions in favor of the electronic services. Libraries will continue this practice in cases where print collections overlap with existing database coverage and as additional works go online or as back runs are filled in. The Planning Group cannot predict the timing of these changes; we also believe that the major space gains have already been made.


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