For the second year running, I “attended” the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference by watching streamed sessions. I still plan on watching sessions as time permits throughout the year, since the group purchase that Derrik made runs until the next conference is held in 2015. (ZSR folks: Ask Derrik if you need the password.)
One trend that popped up in multiple presentations was Evidence-Based Acquisition (EBA). Like its close relative Demand-Driven (or Patron-Driven) Acquisition, it has two names and two initialisms. So you may also hear of Usage-Driven Acquisition (UDA). With EBA, you give a provider an up-front deposit, say, $5,000. Then then provider turns on their entire catalog of e-books or streaming films. After a set time, say, a year, you get a usage report and can choose $5,000-worth of products for permanent ownership. There are some pros and cons to this approach, especially vis-à-vis DDA. (What if you don’t get $5,000 worth of use? What if all the use is long tail with no “short head”?) However, since providers who use this model generally do not participate in DDA models, EBA may be the most cost-effective way to buy certain types of material.
Another hot topic was the end-user experience with e-books and certain multimedia databases. Basically, it’s bad. Typical problems with e-books include not being able to print, not being able to use the book on certain devices, not being able to store the book for later consultation. Multimedia has a different but related set of concerns. (I’m reminded of this comic and this infographic. They both claim that poor UX drives customers to piracy.) The presenters didn’t go as far as claiming that library resources drive folks to piracy, but they did claim that students will instead either download free alternatives or the “haves” might buy individual copies instead, which could magnify the effects of economic disparities among students. The presenters insisted that libraries should put their collective foot down and refuse to buy user-hostile resources (even if the information contained is high quality). They called out one well-known database as particularly awful. A quick check of that library’s website established that they still subscribe to the bad product, so the force of their argument was somewhat undermined. I have hope, however, because I can remember a time in the 90s when e-journals and e-newspapers were just as bad as e-books are today. Printing from JSTOR used to be a nightmare, and you had to use certain specific computers if you wanted to use ProQuest. Then you had to use a different computer entirely for LexisNexis. These days, e-journals generally just work. Maybe e-books and multimedia sites will get there someday if we keep leaning on the vendors and if we at least occasionally refuse to buy products that are the worst UX offenders.