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Ebooks: “Evidence Based” purchasing expands access to titles

The Libraries have been exploring attractive new book purchasing models that respond directly to the immediate research interests of library users. One such model is an innovative purchase model called “evidence based acquisition”, or EBA. At the beginning of an EBA contract, a library gains access to a stock of ebooks and commits to purchasing a subset of them when the program closes, typically after one year. At the end of the year the library acquires permanently the titles that saw the most usage or as a result of patron communicated interest.

Lehigh now has EBA programs with Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, CRC Press, SAGE, and JSTOR (via the PALCI consortium). These programs collectively provide access to a large number of titles in a wide variety of subject areas. All of the titles in Lehigh's EBA programs have vastly improved user interfaces and are friendly towards users who wish to print or download book chapters.

Library users can access the titles through ASA, Lehigh’s online library catalog available from the library homepage at http://library.lehigh.edu. Or, if a user is on-campus, or off-campus using the VPN , he or she can access the ebooks after discovering them through an Internet search engine such as Google.

One advantage of the evidence based acquisition (EBA) model is the leverage afforded by the relatively large ratio between the value of books accessible at the beginning of the programs and the value of the books finally selected. Another advantage is that librarians gain data about the subject interests of Lehigh library users that can inform purchase of books under other models. Additionally, many of the titles in Lehigh's EBA programs are not available in electronic format unless subscribing to significantly more expensive package deals, but the EBA arrangement affords library users the opportunity to request individual titles that would otherwise necessitate a larger financial commitment.

Lehigh’s EBA programs are part of a larger effort to explore and implement new models of book purchasing that respond to “evidence” users give, or have given, of their interest in a book title. From the ILLiad interface, faculty can request “Express Purchase” of books (in either electronic or print format). Lehigh has also been involved in a Lehigh Valley consortial ebook program in which uses of ebooks trigger purchases. Finally, the library has purchased a large number of ebook versions of books that our users originally requested via interlibrary loan.

Your subject librarian welcomes feedback you have about Lehigh’s book collections.