November 26, 2015

PDA: “Research Foresees Demand-Driven Book Acquisition Replacing Librarians’ Discretion”

From Steve Kolowich at Inside Higher Ed:

University presses publish plenty of books that are read only by academics.

They also publish plenty of books that are read by no one.

Inventory research has suggested that as much as half of a library’s holdings never circulate.

“We are very good at figuring out what kinds of books our patrons are going to want,” said Rick Anderson, associate dean for scholarly resources and collections at the University of Utah, at the annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses here on Tuesday.

“We are not very good,” Anderson continued, “at figuring out which particular titles within those categories our patrons are actually going to use.”


The rise of PDA is expected to save libraries a lot of money on collections management. In 2009, the library at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan, started using the method. Patrons at the library accessed 6,239 e-books that year, but they used only 343 of them enough to trigger a purchase. Grand Valley paid its vendor, Ebook Library, $69,000. If it had bought all the e-books its patrons skimmed but did not “use,” it would have paid $550,000.

But how PDA stands to affect university presses — the subject of [Joe] Esposito’s Mellon-funded research, which he plans to release in full next month — is harder to predict. If academic libraries pay only for what their patrons use, will university presses still be able to afford to publish obscure monographs that nobody reads?

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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