Finding Middle Ground on Licensing E-Resources?

In real estate, the three most important things are location, location and location. In the world of electronic resources, the three most important things are licensing, licensing and licensing.

That's the conclusion of Michael Newman, head librarian at the Falconer Biology Library at Stanford University. In "Collections Strategies for Electronic Books," published in the June issue of Information Outlook (now available online at, he writes:

When e-journals were new, licensing terms were not standardized and licensing was a complex and time-consuming process. E-books are more popular now, but until e-book licensing becomes more streamlined, content will remain secondary to licensing considerations in driving collection development decisions in the selection of digital monographs. E-book selection and acquisition must become as easy as they are for printed monographs, and this requires simplifying licenses and licensing.

Can librarians and vendors find common ground on licensing? George Scotti of Springer, in his article about the impact of e-resources on proving value and return on investment, says vendors are beginning to accommodate librarians' needs, at least in the areas of pricing and content:

I think our industry is going to see more and more … flexible arrangements that address specific cases. I'm not sure the amount of money librarians pay will be different, but the way they buy will be different–for example, instead of a package option, they may have a pick-and-choose option, and they may use tokens and deposit accounts. The business model will change, but at the end of the day, librarians will still get access to everything they need.

Although Scotti doesn't specifically address licensing, his comments suggest that there's some movement toward resolving the e-issues dividing librarians and vendors. Let's hope this movement continues.

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