library computers

Patron-Driven Acquisition: A Surprise “Win-Win” for Libraries, Publishers?

In Tech Digest by Alex Mutter

By Alex Mutter

“With good metadata, every library [could become] a virtual bookstore,” said consultant Joseph Esposito during “Patron-Driven Acquisition and the University Press,” a webinar hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers.

library computersEsposito spoke for a little over an hour on Thursday, presenting findings from a study pertaining to the effects of patron-driven acquisition (PDA) on university presses and academic publishers, and then fielded questions from attendants, whose ranks included librarians and publishing professionals from the US and abroad.

Patron-driven acquisition, which can go by a number of different names, constitutes a fairly radical addition to the library supply chain. Libraries install PDA systems from third party vendors, whose records — of titles that the library does not own — are integrated with the library’s catalogue. And the crux of the PDA system is that a book is bought or rented by a library only when a patron requests it.

The advent of PDA has caused a lot of fear and anxiety for university presses and academic publishers, and while Esposito did acknowledge that the new model — in which books are bought and sold in relatively small numbers at a time, and sometimes not until months or even years after the publication date — could pose some serious cash-flow related challenges, there is significant potential for both presses and libraries to benefit.

Esposito argued that if libraries could do away with interlibrary loan and replace it with PDA rentals, it would cut down on costs for libraries while publishers could take a share of the rental fees. Publishers could move their business from Amazon, which offers markedly low margins, to PDA vendors, who offer comparatively higher margins. And although it would take building some significant infrastructure, publishers and university presses could track circulation data in order to influence editorial choices and, through the thorough creation and distribution of metadata, use library catalogs as the basis for robust book discovery.

“Publishers could make metadata creation and distribution [their] number one marketing priority,” Esposito suggested. “After all, marketing is metadata.”

About the Author

Alex Mutter