The traditional model of library acquisition of books has for ages centered on the one-time purchase of permanent ownership of a physical copy of the book. Transitioning books offered for sale to academic libraries from print copies to eBooks is still in its relative infancy. As a result, this environment is malleable to positive change and not fully explored, examined, or settled. Library policies for collections until quite recently prioritized preservation and archiving for existing material. Binding, for example, was standard treatment for material acquired in paperback, in order to preserve the material for ongoing long-term use. Academic libraries have arguably discarded that function as they acquire eBooks—including varieties of demand-driven acquisition (DDA)—under licensing contracts that do not permit the library to request and receive digital files of the eBooks they acquire to be archived or managed as determined by the library. It is as if these libraries have given up their unique role in society of preserving current content for the future. If ever a library mission-critical function was at risk, this is it and the time to address it is now.
The Three Priniciples
Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.