e-books for FE selection process
How do we select the new titles?
Throughout the academic year, we receive many requests for specific e-book titles. Whilst we would love to be able to purchase specific titles as requested by members, this is not usually possible. With this in mind, we felt that it was important to share the process of how we procure new titles each year. The e-books are selected through a lengthy process that combines the expertise of our Focus Group, our FE and skills team here at Jisc, and our strong relationships with the publishers. These relationships mean that we are able to secure deals on high-quality and curriculum-relevant e-books to benefit the FE and skills sector.
We begin by identifying which subject areas we would like to expand the collection into, or increase provision of. This is based on research of the most popular academic and vocational qualifications and awarding organisations. This research is reviewed against our current provision in these areas, alongside the usage figures of the current provision. This helps us to identify any gaps, and highlight areas of high usage. At this stage, we will consider any requests that have come in throughout the year, and consider any requests for subject or qualification areas.
We work with a Focus Group of fourteen library staff who are working in FE organisations across all four nations of the UK. The Focus group is essential in helping us to ensure that our selections meet the needs of the FE and skills sector, and they are involved in the selection process from the beginning. We share our research with the Focus Group, and ask for their feedback, which we then collate with our research.
Over to the publishers
We then produce a ‘call-off’ to the publishers using our research. This is a document in which we explain that we are looking to procure titles in specified subject areas, or for certain qualifications, at which levels. We are unable to request specific titles, because the titles that publishers are can offer depend on a range of factors, including issues with rights clearances from authors.
Following the call-off, publishers offer us a list of titles which can vary greatly in size from year to year. This year (2022) we had a list of 1,290 e-books to choose from, the largest to date. Some publishers choose not to participate at all, for commercial or financial reasons; some publishers submit every year; and sometimes new publishers decide to participate who haven’t previously (e.g. Jessica Kingsley in 2021).
Then, we share the complete list from the publishers with the Focus Group. The Focus Group members review the list individually and independently, and assign a Yes vote to their Top 50 priority titles. These votes are then collated and added up to produce a longlist. We then hold a 3-hour Teams meeting with Focus Group members to discuss the titles in greater detail and attempt to narrow the list down further. Our discussions are informed by our research, and by the Focus Group’s experience.
Further research is conducted to ensure that the e-books selected will be valid for the whole of the 3 year licence period, for example to check the qualifications aren’t expiring. We also look at usage statistics for titles which are due to expire at the end of August to identify which titles are candidates for renewal, whether for a further one year, or, in some instances, a further three years.
Every year our final choices are necessarily constrained by the available budget.
Back to the publishers
We then submit our final selections to the publishers (via our sales contact at ProQuest, and direct to Pearson for their titles), and they work to ensure that the titles are ready in time for the start of the academic year. This bit can often be problematic, as issues can come up such as waiting for rights clearances from the authors of the e-books. As soon as the contracts are signed by the publishers, we get to our favourite part – sharing details of the new titles with our members, through blog posts and JiscMail, and via the Account Manager network.
If you have any questions about our selection process, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.