Book Review: Building an Electronic Resource Collection
Building an Electronic Resource Collection: A Practical Guide. By Stuart D. Lee, Library Association Publishing, 2002, ISBN 978-1856044226, 160 pages.
This compact text aims to meet the needs of most audiences - from the student, trying to get to grips with the complex topic of electronic resources, to the practitioner, tasked with building an e-collection on a fixed budget. Read and digest this book and you will be equipped to roam the wide plains of the electronic resources landscape. You need have little fear of getting lost - armed with this book you will have all the information you require, presented in an easily digested, and easy to navigate, format. The text would translate well into to ebook format - perhaps this was the author’s intention? This would enable the reader to bookmark key passages, search for specific topics and key words, and annotate text. These are the value added reading experiences which ar eusually attributed to ebooks. It would also allow frequent updating of this dynamic topic to keep pace with trends and changes.
The layout of the book follows a logical sequence, starting with the general and drilling down to the more specific implementation issues. The author defines
e-resources at the outset and does this by asking a series of questions, for example: what is an e-journal? He then follows this with a review of the range of e-products currently available, and then break this down into chapters devoted to each resource category. The information is bang up- to-date, from news of recent take-overs in the e-book world, to news feeds and push and pull technology.
E-books rate an entire chapter, although they are teamed up with e-journals. Both formats, the author explains, are “extremely topical at the moment”. The piece on e-books does not, however, provide any clues as to the possible success or failure of this evolving medium, so readers hoping for advice as to whether they should rush out and buy a dozen of ebook reading devices may be dissapointed.
Lee gives due consideration to the controversial issue of the validity of the current pricing models for journals. A 'rebellion' has been brewing for several years against the practice of selling back to the research community the very articles which academics, and their employing institutions, have freely supplied to publishers. The arguments on both sides are well presented under the heading: “the dog fights back” - although I personally found the metaphor an odd choice. The author argues that it is hard to justify the perpetuation of a system which sees academic institutions paying to gain access to their own work. However, the publishers counterargument is that they add value to the raw product i.e the 'unpublished' articles, and it is this process which justifies the rising subscription fees. The democratising nature of the Internet, and the proliferation of free quality information on the web, much of which has been produced for and by the academic community, has fanned the debate, and caused many to question the continued viability of this business model.
The book has useful reference tools including a glossary and a bibliography (both of which are ‘select’ - so readers are assured of quality rather than quantity). Chapter summaries serve as aide memoires/quick reference tools for those with limited time to spare, and the text is liberally spinkled with practical examples and advice. The importance of formulating a collection development policy is stressed at various points in the text, and readers are steered towards where to find examples and further guidance on the Web.
Evaluation check lists steer and support readers through the various steps in the collection development process, for example acquisition, payment and implementation issues. The author gives comprehensive treatment to licensing and payment models, and sets out clearlly the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods available, such as pay-per-view.
To summarise – this text is a useful, concise, yet comprehensive guide to building electronic collections. The style is easy to read, and meets a variety of readers’ needs. The book can be read from cover to cover or dipped into. The topic is a highly dynamic one, and things will inevitably change quite quickly. However, the book provides an accurate picture of the current situation, and is useful to all those who want to get to grips with this complex topic.