Evidence Based Acquisitions: does the evidence support this hybrid model?

Ying Zhang on the results of a year-long pilot project at the University of Central Florida.

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Advantages – and disadvantages!

The study demonstrates that as a hybrid acquisitions model, EBA has the combined advantages and disadvantage of package and patron driven acquisition models. On one hand, it allows for selection on demand like PDA. And it enables a wider access upfront with smaller budget than most package acquisitions. Unlike PDA where the expenditures become difficult to predict, the expenditure on EBA is clear in the beginning and easier to manage. The unlimited DRM and perpetual ownership upon final selection are great for academic libraries. 

On the other hand, the workflow on EBA is more complicated than other acquisitions models. The initial access title list would have to be turned on for the agreed access period; and then any titles unselected will need to be removed after the final selection is done. Libraries cannot market the initial access titles.  It requires more attentive and timely monitoring on the usage. And if the titles are not easily discovered or used, the costs of books used may not add up to the access fees paid upfront and therefore ultimately weighs down on the overall cost-effectiveness of EBA.

For libraries considering implementing EBA, I recommend:

  • select an access title list that will attract high usage
  • negotiate the most reasonable access fees
  • anticipate the additional workflow involved in EBA.

EBA – a win-win?

From an acquisitions perspectives, how is the return on investment (ROI) of EBA compared to other existing acquisitions models for e-books? I picked three models used at UCF: firm, patron-driven and package. Each was adopted in different years and therefore the usage data availabilities vary. Despite the distinct disadvantage of having only one year usage, EBA stacked well against three-year data on firm and PDA and nine year data on package. The ROI, average usage per dollar spent, of EBA stands lower than that package and PDA, but much higher than that of firm.

Based on the UCF experience, I believe as a hybrid acquisitions model, evidence based acquisition is cost-effective and enables libraries to purchase based on demand. The expenditures are easier for the libraries to predict and access easier to manage. The unlimited DRM and perpetual ownership at purchase greatly improve user experience.

In the meantime because of the upfront access fees, the publishers realise a faster cost-recovery and more accurate profit forecast than the PDA model.

In summary, evidence based acquisitions could be a win-win model for both libraries and publishers.


Ying Zhang is the Acquisitions librarian at the University of Central Florida, USA.

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