October 23, 2014

Springer Responds to Ebook Growth with Program for Colleges and Small Universities

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Springer LogoIn response to growing demand for ebook content, Springer has begun offering colleges and small universities complete collections of its ebook titles by copyright year. Pricing is based on the size of the institution, and the ebooks are sold DRM-free, under a perpetual-license model that allows unlimited simultaneous use, representatives from the publisher told LJ.

A recent white paper, which Springer researched in conjunction with librarians from Wellesley College and Boston University, reported a very high rate of ebook usage among faculty and undergraduates at small colleges. At Wellesley, 71 percent of students and faculty said that they used ebooks in 2011. That total included non-academic and leisure reading, but more than half of these ebook users also said that they had downloaded ebooks from the Wellesley College Library collection. By comparison, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a more comprehensive survey of all U.S. adults in April 2012, which indicated that only about 21 percent of U.S. adults had read an ebook in 2011.

Historically, Springer has worked primarily with large research universities, but about three years ago, account managers began noticing a growing number of ebook inquiries from smaller institutions. Unfortunately, the publisher’s tiered pricing system “was well above what these schools could afford,” said David Celano, Springer’s vice president of library sales. Librarians at smaller institutions also tended to believe that only a small portion of Springer’s collection of mostly STEM-field titles would appeal to undergraduates, Celano added.

“We spent a lot of time researching what the best price point would be based on the size of the institution,” he said.

Continued Growth

Ebooks are continuing to gain acceptance among students and faculty, the white paper indicates. While only about 12 percent of students and faculty said that they preferred ebooks to print, 35 percent said that they view ebooks as an acceptable alternative to print. Almost 40 percent said that they use ebooks, but prefer print books, and about 10 percent said that they do not want to use ebooks, but sometimes have no choice.

Presumably, adoption and acceptance of ebooks will continue to increase as the popularity of tablets, smartphones, and dedicated ebook readers continues to grow. The white paper notes that “device owners in general show a much higher level of acceptance of ebooks than people who do not own devices. Respondents who do not own and do not plan to purchase a mobile device show a much higher preference for print. The data does not provide a clear cause and effect.”

For libraries, however, the pricing of the collection enables a college to offer access to a much larger selection of content than would be possible if using the same funds for print titles, said Maura Diamond, senior account manager for Springer Science+Business Media.

Content from several Springer imprints could have cross-disciplinary appeal, Diamond said. Technical publisher Apress Media, for example, offers titles on designing apps or programming in JavaScript, while Island Press features titles on popular topics such as sustainability and environmental science. And even in the most complex titles, undergraduates or their professors may find introductory chapters helpful.

“We’ll have a 1,200 page book that covers a really advanced topic in let’s say, artificial intelligence, but the first three chapters give you the breakdown you needed to get into the basic idea,” Diamond said. “It’s perfect for an undergraduate student.”

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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