Patrons in the driving seat

I mentioned in yesterday’s very brief post that my library has made a decision to go ahead with purchasing some e-books using a patron-driven acquisition (PDA) model. This model is a fairly recent innovation in the e-book market, and it’s one that I really like. Each vendor may have slight variations on it, but the basic concept is this:

1. The library decides on the e-book titles that it wants to offer to its patrons

2. The e-book vendor supplies catalogue records to the library for no charge

3. Patrons can access the e-books via the catalogue

4. After a book has been accessed a certain number of times, the library purchases the e-book

I think this model provides great flexibility for libraries to offer e-books to their patrons. When e-books were first sold to libraries they were usually in packages, so libraries were purchasing a whole bunch of titles which might never get used – we had to guess which titles our patrons would find useful. With the PDA model, however, it is usage which drives the purchase of the books. Some vendors allow the books to be issued on a short-term loan a set number of times (with each loan costing a percentage of the purchase price), with subsequent usage triggering a purchase. It is usually possible to place a price cap on titles which are purchased automatically, with expensive titles having to be approved by library staff. Libraries can also allocate a set amount of money to be used for purchases e.g. $3,000; this can be automatically topped up when funds start to run low (a bit like an e-tag for road tolls or the Opal card in Sydney).

We’re still in the early stages of working with our e-book vendor on setting this up, but I think it’s going to be something that our patrons will appreciate.

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About Andrew

I'm a health librarian in Sydney, Australia, who also happens to be a geocacher.

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