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Charlotte Initiative

The Charlotte Initiative for Permanent Acquisition of eBooks by Academic Libraries

About the Charlotte Initiative

The traditional model of library acquisition of books has for ages centered on the one-time purchase of permanent ownership of a physical copy of the book. Transitioning books offered for sale to academic libraries from print copies to eBooks is still in its relative infancy. As a result, this environment is malleable to positive change and not fully explored, examined, or settled. Library policies for collections until quite recently prioritized preservation and archiving for existing material. Binding, for example, was standard treatment for material acquired in paperback, in order to preserve the material for ongoing long-term use. Academic libraries have arguably discarded that function as they acquire eBooks—including varieties of demand-driven acquisition (DDA)—under licensing contracts that do not permit the library to request and receive digital files of the eBooks they acquire to be archived or managed as determined by the library. It is as if these libraries have given up their unique role in society of preserving current content for the future. If ever a library mission-critical function was at risk, this is it and the time to address it is now.

The proposed project will gather representatives of like-minded institutions who share a commitment and interest to identify, examine, explore and propose sustainable solutions to issues of preservation and use of eBooks in academic libraries. Members of this working group will share their perspectives and work together to identify essential characteristics applicable to the licensing, collection, and use of eBooks. To this end, obtained a grant of $271,001 over a two-year term, in order to convene this representative working group to discuss, define, and propose avenues for implementation of the results.

The Three Principles

Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms: 

  • Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
  • Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.

Project Outcomes

  • A complete, current, and accurate snapshot of how academic libraries are acquiring and using eBooks (Environmental Scan and Licensing Research Teams)
  • Identification of publishers who have goals commensurate with library priorities (Environmental Scan)
  • Identification of qualities and characteristics of scholarly works that are used for campus support including classroom and instructional use. (Course Use and User Experience Research Teams)
  • Identification of available platforms and services for ebook preservation (Platforms and Preservation Research Team)