Springer Nature Book Archives in Practice: Interview with the Head of Portfolio Development at the Bundeswehr University Munich
Dr. Christoph Janello, Head of Portfolio Development and Metadata at the Library of the Bundeswehr University Munich, shares insights into the decision-making process for the Springer Nature Book Archives. In addition, he discusses his own experiences with and aspirations for the Archives.
What motivated you to buy the Springer Nature Book Archive (SNBAs)?
The main motivation was to provide content that is accessible outside the library’s opening hours. We have most of the important titles in print, but print is only available when the library is open, eBooks exist around the clock. We regularly receive requests for 24-hour access and wanted to meet the users’ needs.
How did you select the collections?
We looked at the denials and checked what the university needed, which worked really well. Purchase of the SNBAs alone reduced our denials for Springer Nature eBooks by 40%. Of course the budget also played a role in the final decision.
Were the denials the only reason for deciding to buy SNBA, or did you consider other factors?
We considered the denials in combination with usage of contemporary eBook content. In other words, we looked at the current content of specific packages and saw that they were of interest and well used, so it was likely that archive content of those packages would also be useful to the university. Ultimately, price was a deciding factor. I weighed the denials against the price to thoroughly compare the packages with one another for a final decision.
If you looked at the first 10 or 11 months of usage, what was your impression? Did the usage meet your expectations?
I had no specific expectations about how well the SNBAs would be used, but we were very satisfied.
You already have some usage experience with more up-to-date Springer Nature eBook packages. Do you rate the usage of contemporary eBooks differently from usage with the SNBAs?
No, usage is usage.
What are your expectations regarding the usage of SNBAs for the future?
I suspect the usage might continue to increase slightly for one or two more years, and then it will even out or perhaps even fall back slightly, as the content gets older and newer content is used more and more. But how things will develop, we’ll have to wait and see.
Was it difficult for you to generate interest in the SNBAs among the users?
Not really. In the beginning it took a while to process the content into our catalog, but still usage figures were surprisingly high. So users were finding the content via SpringerLink or Google. We did promote the SNBA content on our website, but I don’t think that had a major impact. Demand was simply there, and that fits the basic principle of our university and this library very well - we are very strongly needs-oriented. We don’t have to fulfill the role of building a collection, like a state library for example. We want to provide literature for future generations, but first of all we have to supply what is really needed. And that’s why these quantitative factors, like the denials, are really important for us.
Who uses the SNBAs mainly?
Given the feedback we get from graduate students, they are using the standard course books recommended by the professor, although sometimes they have to start by creating bibliographies themselves.
Our university works in trimesters so we could say there is a higher pressure on students, but there is also an excellent student-tutor ratio. The interaction between professors and students is very close and a lot is done to ensure that they complete their studies as well as possible. Students get excellent lecture notes that summarize what the professors compile, mostly themselves, and the course books plays a less central role there.
For that reason, I would assume that the archives are of most interest for researchers – either for degree or master’s work in the early days, and then mainly dissertations and advanced research.
How would you describe the benefits of SNBAs for your users?
Accessibility and the lack of DRM (Digital Rights Management) - i.e. complete accessibility without restrictions – are beneficial. Not long ago, a member of the research staff called me and asked whether it was true, that there was no DRM on the content and if he could legally download the whole book. Users are familiar with other platforms having DRM, so it’s a surprise when they come across a DRM free platform. Springer Nature has already set a standard, the gold standard if you will, which others are not prepared to deliver.
What is your acquisition strategy in future in terms of print versus digital?
There was a time when I thought we would be further along in the transformation towards digital already, but experience shows, especially with course books, that the eBook is seen as an add-on. With course books, the print book is what the students want, with all the tangible advantages.
However, apart from the course books, we are following an “e-First” strategy with eBook packages, meaning that we only buy printed copies at an express request. There are professors who say they simply want to have the book on their desk and I don’t see that changing right away. But for many applications an eBook is more practical.
How do you measure the ROI of an acquisition or licence?
It’s hard to compare across different platforms – you have to be able to compare Springer Nature with Cambridge [University Press], for example, which is extremely difficult. The only thing I tend to use is the cost-per-download.
The decision to subscribe to content from one or another publisher is subjective, whereas the cost-per-download is reasonably objective. If you say that you rely on the COUNTER reports, and assume standardization makes all publishers comparable, basically the cost-per-download is actually the only thing that you can reasonably use for comparison.
Then we also have preference when it comes to the platforms. A platform with a great deal of DRM has to offer a significantly better cost-per-download than a DRM-free platform that might have the same usage.
More details about the Bundeswehr University Munich and its library:
The library of the Bundeswehr University Munich provides information services to all areas of the university to support study, teaching and research. Equipped with a budget of € 1.6 million p.a. the University Library provides a total of 1.3 million physical media units, and an extensive range of electronic literature (32.000 full-text magazines, 200 licensed literature and factual databases, 120,000 permanently licensed and numerous temporary eBooks) rounds off the library's holdings. Springer Nature eBook collections are part of the libraries portfolio including the contemporary and archival content from the German-language packages Business & Economics, Computer Science & Engineering, Humanities & Social Sciences and the Life Sciences.