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O'Leary "“Buying” the digital asset: Publisher Support for Perpetual Access"


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This presentation was provided by Brian O'Leary of The BISG, during the NISO event "Owing, Licensing, and Sharing Digital Content." The virtual conference was held on Thursday, January 21, 2021.

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O'Leary "“Buying” the digital asset: Publisher Support for Perpetual Access"

  1. 1. Buying The Digital Asset © 2021, Book Industry Study Group, Inc. Publisher Support for Perpetual Access
  2. 2. Overview  Evolution of perpetual access for digital assets  Publisher obligations in providing perpetual access  Issues and challenges in meeting expectations  Is there a path forward? 2
  3. 3. Two decades of rapid evolution for books Physical Objects, Seldom Digitized Physical Objects, Offered Digitally Digital Objects, Occasionally Printed 3 Pre-2000 2001- 2010 Post 2010 PDFs (not common, and not an appealing format for books) PDFs and reflowable eBooks PDFs, reflowable eBooks, and linked content
  4. 4.  Physical books came with built-in commercial friction  Lend only as many copies as you purchase and own  Retrieving content requires physical proximity or shipment  Higher-velocity titles wear out, potentially prompting replacement  Publishers used price to maintain some scarcity  Books often sold through intermediaries, but few formal licenses  Prevailing laws and regulations governed libraries  Perpetual access = “You bought the book” 4 Print expectations were well understood
  5. 5.  Digital books lack commercial friction  Systems developed to limit lending  Retrieving content less dependent on physical proximity or shipment  Higher-velocity titles don’t wear out  Publishers testing different levels to maintain scarcity  Price, still, but also terms (license for time) and number of lends  Books sold through intermediaries, with a mix of licenses  Perpetual access = “You bought the license; what does it say?”  Managing territorial rights in real time 5 Digital expectations are a work in progress
  6. 6. Added complexity of bundles, markets  Example: buy our front list, get unlimited access to backlist  Access in future years may depend on continued front list purchase  Suites of products (mix of physical and digital formats)  Pricing that depends on purchase or ownership of another product  Differential pricing based on type of library  Consortial pricing, where applicable 6
  7. 7. The growing complexity of perpetual access Print ownership = access Digital ownership managed by third parties Multiple models and rules 7 In the current environment, perpetual access has evolved (devolved?) from a matter of law and regulations to a set of licenses and contracts that can overlap, at times contradict, and increasingly have become challenging to maintain.
  8. 8. Ongoing tension around perpetual access Publisher obligations (IP defense, author care, financial viability) Customer requirements (clear understanding of access, cost- effective purchase decisions, managing through third parties) 8
  9. 9. Challenges in providing perpetual access  Managing the migration from “sales” to “rights”  Managing what rights are conveyed  Not always well-managed outside of the library context  Now substituting for what was once unencumbered sales  Finding predictable ways to manage rights  Now: multiple forms of contracts, terms, lending models  Growing complexity, absence of clear laws/regs complicate management  The fear of “forever”, two decades into a digital era 9
  10. 10. Paths forward  Acknowledge the formative role of legacy structures  Intermediaries serve a purpose; how do they support perpetual access?  Working through others can weaken mutual understanding  Testing assumptions about the role and purpose of book sales  Agreement on the problems we’re working to solve  Book content has much longer lead times for impact  Does velocity of book engagement signal a different purchase mindset?  Over time, standards and simpler or more replicable practices 10
  11. 11. Questions, comments, and discussion 11
  12. 12. Contact information    (646) 336-7141 12