Scholarly quality: all ye know and all ye need to know?

Source: Marcie Brock, Book Marketing Maven
Source: Marcie Brock Book Marketing Maven

In the ongoing conversation about the current and future health of the marketplace for scholarly monographs, there tends to be a lot of discussion around the issue of quality.

This is understandable. Quality is a very comfortable topic for all concerned, since (with relatively few exceptions) scholarly books don’t generally get all the way through the editorial gauntlet of serious publishers unless they’re works of pretty high quality. Publishers, authors, readers, and librarians would all agree on that, I think.

For some commentators, this seems to be pretty much all one needs to know: if the books are of high scholarly quality, then this means that a) they should be published and b) they should be bought—if not by individual readers (the taste and discernment of individuals being notoriously inconsistent) then at least by libraries, whose job, these commentators believe, is to discriminate between high-quality and low-quality books, and to buy the high-quality ones—thus providing essential support to good authors and publishers, building rich and coherent collections, and ensuring that the libraries’ patrons (both current and future) will have access to quality resources as they pursue their scholarly work.

Quality vs. resources

There’s a problem, though. (Isn’t there always?) It’s the problem of limited resources. There may be some academic libraries out there that can afford to buy, shelve, and permanently curate every high-quality scholarly book published, but if there are, then they must be vanishingly few. Most—virtually all—academic libraries have to make tough choices about which high-quality scholarly books they’ll buy and which ones they won’t. This means that they have to make choices based on some variable other than quality. That variable is—and has always been, though we haven’t always said so very explicitly—relevance.

What does “relevance” mean in this context? It’s simple: relevance is the measure of a particular book’s ability to meet real-time, real-life scholarly needs at the purchasing institution. The quality of a particular book doesn’t vary at all from library to library; a great book is a great book, no matter who owns it. The relevance of a particular book, however, varies greatly from place to place. And this is where the conversation gets less comfortable, because while we can pretty much all agree that scholarly monographs tend to be of high quality, it is also very often true that they are quite narrow in focus. And this, in turn, means that if libraries apply relevance as a criterion in their book selecting, they will actively decide against purchasing some scholarly books, despite those books’ high quality. This seemed less problematic to publishers when librarians (whose selections were driven by considerations of both quality and of potential and future relevance) were selecting books; now that books are being increasing purchased as a result of patron behavior (which tends to be driven by actual and present relevance), there is a very real risk that fewer high-quality books are going to sell.

A matrix model

Lately I’ve found myself starting to think in terms of two-dimensional matrices that illustrate the confluence and interaction of multiple variables. (In the November issue of Against the Grain, I’ll publish a two dimensional model of what I call “librarian depth perception.” Some Scholarly Kitchen readers might find it interesting; it will be publicly available and I’ll plug a link in here when it’s published.) Here’s an example of one such matrix that illustrates the interaction of quality and relevance in the context of scholarly book purchasing:

matrix

In the past, when libraries were relatively richly funded (and when there were fewer journals, and journal prices were lower) libraries were able to buy a much higher percentage of the books that fell solidly into the high-Q/high-R quadrant of this matrix—and we also had the luxury of buying quite a few books the relevance of which was less clear, but which were nevertheless of high quality. During this period, our purchases were more broadly distributed across two quadrants: up and down the Relevance vector, and around the “High” end of the Quality vector. Today, I think, our purchases would be more tightly clustered around the “High” end of the Relevance vector, though still somewhat concentrated at the “High” end of the Quality vector.

Relevance trumps quality

It’s worth noting, however, that all research libraries contain at least some low-quality books—and this is not only because librarians failed to notice that they were of poor quality. It’s also because a book can hold value to students and researchers that goes beyond its intrinsic scholarly qualities. Poorly-written books filled with bad argumentation and even evil intent (e.g. Mein Kampf) may nevertheless provide an indispensable window on the thinking of important and influential figures in history; books containing lies masquerading as biography (A Million Little Pieces) may be important sources of information on sociological or cultural trends; deliberately fraudulent scholarship (Arming America) may still valuably illustrate strains of thinking and rhetoric in public discourse on important issues. Similarly, the greatest book in the world in a discipline not served by a particular academic library is likely to be a poor purchase, whereas a more mediocre book that supports the institutional mission very directly may be a wise purchase. The bottom line here is that it’s a myth that the library exists to curate and showcase the best in scholarship; in reality, the library exists to facilitate new scholarship—and new scholarship requires access to more than just what is good and true.

What this all means is that no good research library will limit itself strictly to high-quality books. Relevance is not only a restrictive factor on which high-quality books we choose to buy with our limited funds; it’s also an inclusive factor when it comes to considering mediocre or low-quality books.

As I said above, when we turn from the issue of quality (which makes everyone feel good) to the issue of relevance (which makes us more nervous), the conversation becomes less comfortable. Scholarly publishers don’t like the idea of libraries buying mediocre books, because that’s not what they sell; and they don’t like the idea of libraries declining to purchase niche books, because that is very often what they do sell.

Rick’s Law of Potential Relevance

All of this begs an important question, though. How can you really judge the relevance of a book? A book that seems niche-y or only peripherally important today may turn out to be highly relevant (and even prescient) tomorrow—and if not tomorrow, then maybe ten years from now, or twenty.

This is a true statement, but it’s not a good point. Why? Here I will introduce Rick’s Law of Potential Relevance, which states: There is no document about which one cannot say “Someday this document may be essential.” Here’s the corollary to that law: Since potential future relevance is functionally unlimited, potential future relevance is an inappropriate criterion to apply when allocating limited resources.

Here’s another way of thinking about it: the further one looks into the future, the more possible scenarios there are. And the more possible scenarios there are, the more potential there is for any given book to be relevant to one of them. This means that if you try to build a collection based on potential future relevance, you had better have an unlimited book budget and an infinitely expandable library—because that’s the only way you’ll be able to do it.

The importance of being patron-driven

What’s the alternative? The alternative—which is really the only fiscally responsible and sustainable approach—is to build the collection that makes the most sense in terms of real, current, demonstrable needs, recognizing that your collection-building strategy will need to be adjusted over time. And right now, one of the most effective and least wasteful ways to do that is by putting real, current, academically active library patrons in the driver’s seat when it comes to selecting books. Given that this represents a radical departure from centuries-old library practice (and from the assumptions that have guided publishing decisions for centuries as well), we can expect that such a move will continue to be controversial and difficult—for librarians and publishers, anyway. Maybe less so for researchers and students.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is Associate Dean for Collections and Scholarly Communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah. He speaks and writes regularly on issues related to libraries, scholarly communication, and higher education, and has served as president of NASIG and of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

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Discussion

46 Thoughts on "Quality and Relevance: A Matrix Model for Thinking about Scholarly Books and Libraries"

Rick, thank you for your thoughts about quality and relevance in determining which books to purchase for your university collection. Have you considered to acquire this content on a just in time basis for a single or multiple use? For example if the content of the book was in a master corpus of data and it was semantically enriched, the user could could conduct a semantic search across this corpus of data and determine if a specific chapter is germane to their research. So they are able to purchase the access rights to that chapter. Are you now considering such options to augment and enhance your collection while protecting your budget?

Look forward to your thoughts.

I’ve been championing (and piloting) patron-driven acquisition/access models for a long time, and am always interested in hearing about new ones. If there’s one in particular that you’d like to hip me to, please send me the details.

Rick, glad to hear that you support PDA will certainly highlight any new developments that I come across. Note that at the upcoming PSP annual meeting we will have a session on Chunking content (books) and I am sure we will learn something new at that session.

The CCC’s Get It Now program does exactly that, viz., provide licensed access to just what article is needed at any given moment for a student or researcher. Although currently limited to journals, there is no reason that it cannot be extended to books, so long as publishers take the trouble to apply DOIs to book chapters.

Darrell raises an interesting point which will become more relevant, requiring a 3rd access to Rick’s model, time. If we skip over the specious argument that certain academic fields require that faculty are expected to publish books rather than journal articles for promotion/tenure, then a measure of a volume needs to consider the half-life of the material itself. Rick touches on this when he speculates that a work of quality may not have contemporary value but may have future value.

That is a principle difference between a book and a journal article which is a report of ideas in progress where rapid publication may be of importance but of changing importance over time.

That idea then leads to the issue of where is that knowledge “stored” and how is that knowledge accessed. In an increasingly digital world, location of a holding may be less relevant than how that knowledge can be accessed. Somewhere in the near future book content may be subject to the same Open Access idea that is now in the journal arena. That changes the pricing and business models and the criteria for decision making for libraries. ILL is the print version for knowledge movement. Rick’s two dimension matrix may not hold as we move into the world of “big data” and Open Access or variances thereof for knowledge. Max Boisot’s Social Learning Cycle speaks to this changing value of “content” over time and thus the function and use of libraries as aggregators of content.

There is a nice principle of decision theory that relates to your general point. It says that if you optimize the combination of two (or more) variables you will sub-optimize each considered singly.

But I would think that relevance is already a strong force. For example, that you can tell a universiy’s departmental structure by looking at the distribution of books in the library. Such as which disciplines had departments and perhaps even which granted advanced degrees. It would be interesting if this were not true.

There is a field that pulls these sorts of rules out of people’s heads, called knowledge engineering. (I have done a bit of it.) It might be fun to do this with librarians. The rules are typically not simple but not overly complex either and it can help to see them spelled out.

I have come to believe that the notion of building a collection is outdated. Rather than building a collection and using that collection as the means of providing documents to users, which was a strategy that made sense in a print world, libraries will purchase documents when, and only when, our users need them. In an electronic world this is the only strategy that makes any sense to me.

I enjoyed your piece here today. Another way to look at the quality/relevance dilemma is to ask whether a publisher can have multiple motives in publishing a monograph. What I mean by this is it is perfectly acceptable to publish a quality monograph in a narrow field if you know what you are doing. If you realize that what you are doing in some ways is a service to the completeness of scholarship, rather than serving the business of publishing, then at least you know what to expect. Yes, we would hope that a library takes this same view on completeness. Having said this, publishing is a business, so if you are mission driven to provide quality scholarship even in narrow fields, you better have a way of supporting these initiatives with books that are no less high quality, but are in fact are market driven books, designed for relevance. These books should sell, and return a surplus. Are libraries market driven? Well, it seems to me that a library should serve the needs of all their constituents, rather than say the largest or most vocal sectors. This why usage as a metric should be separated from utility, but perhaps I now disappear down another rabbit hole..

If you realize that what you are doing in some ways is a service to the completeness of scholarship, rather than serving the business of publishing, then at least you know what to expect. Yes, we would hope that a library takes this same view on completeness.

Each library’s size, budget, and mission are going to have an impact on its orientation towards completeness. It’s a sad fact, but a real one, that no library can afford to buy, house, and curate everything that could possibly be useful and relevant, so we always have to make tough choices, and those choices inevitably limit the completeness of our collections.

Are libraries market driven? Well, it seems to me that a library should serve the needs of all their constituents, rather than say the largest or most vocal sectors.

Absolutely. Of course, given that the library’s collecting policies are (or should be) driven by the university’s mission as a whole, it’s not so much a question of making sure that we’re serving all patrons equally as it is a question of making sure that our distributed levels of support match the mission priorities of the institution. It’s another sad fact, but a real one again, that no university puts an equal emphasis on every discipline; this means that if the library’s collecting policy gives every discipline equal support, it’s not doing its job. And it’s certainly true that the library needs to focus on its mission priorities rather than on simply soothing the loudest and most demanding patrons.

This isn’t a rhetorical question. Are any large research libraries comprehensively collecting at Conspectus Level 5, in other words, everything, at least in some subjects. When I got my doctorate in French Literature at Yale, Sterling Memorial Library did so in my field. In fact, when I joined the library staff, I learned that the French bibliographer had trouble spending his budget. I wrote my very first brief article in 1979 based on how comprehensive the collection was. I would guess that the library held every single novel from the major publishers as well as all the literary criticism. I would also estimate that probably less than 1% of the collection had ever circulated, but it was there if anyone wanted it. I used some very esoteric items in writing my dissertation that I’m quite sure no one would ever use again; but they were there when I needed them.

I know that this era has mostly passed, but do any research libraries still make any efforts to get everything in at least some subject areas of high relevance to their user community?

I can’t answer this on behalf of anyone else, of course, and I’m not sure whether my library would qualify as a “large research library” according to the criteria you have in mind, but I can tell you that at the U of Utah, there is no subject area in which we attempt to acquire every publication.

Vannever Bush held that a library should serve the future with knowledge of the past. Having some years of experience as editor of a scholarly reprint publisher, I would suggest a 3d dimension to your matrix: Past / Now / Future (i.e. time). Advised by senior scholars, I sought important out-of-print works, many issued before western research libraries were conceived. Some were issued by small, independent publishers that never reached out to libraries. Not considered of academic interest when published, they became prized for their content.

We also sifted through Books for College Libraries (published by ALA), which was meant to represent a typical college library collection. Although some people took the list as an acquisition mandate, we found its selection dotted with obsolete textbooks and other such typical blemishes.

Responding here to both Albert’s and Tom’s comments regarding value over time: again, it’s undeniable that a book may seem irrelevant or of low value today, but then turn out to be highly relevant and of high value at some point in the future. Unfortunately, that is true of virtually any book, which is why today’s collecting decisions (which are the only ones we can make today) can’t, in practical terms, be driven by the possibility of future relevance and value. See Rick’s Law of Potential Relevance, above.

I think the problem that I have with PDA is that it equates popularity with relevance, and those aren’t really the same thing. When I think about how much of the foundation of search is based on popularity, and how especially student discovery is even more prone to a bias toward what’s popular, I worry that by turning the acquisitions decisions over to patrons we are abdicating our responsibilities as gatekeepers. In a perfect world where students arrived with sufficient information literacy, and where everyone started their search in an OPAC with transparent search and ranking algorithms, then PDA might make a lot more sense to me. But when relevance is limited to only content found on mega-platform X; and search results are biased toward publishers mastering the art of metadata and content optimization rather than say, editing; and search results are ranked by what others found click-worthy, then I’ve got to wonder if we’re still talking about relevance.

Tony, I think a lot of your concern is based on a misunderstanding of how PDA really works in an academic library. Patron-driven purchases aren’t based on Google searches, but on student and faculty use of a predefined universe of books (by means of catalog records made findable via catalog searches). In other words, the library isn’t really offering access to the whole universe of published books, but to a set of books based on a profile, one that will be larger or smaller based on budget, and more or less academic based on mission. In the great majority of cases, the universe of books offered leans pretty heavily towards the more serious and academic and away from the popular. (I provide some more background info in an earlier SK posting.)

I agree (and have felt that to be true for a long time). But I’m not sure what that has to do with the concerns you’re expressing regarding PDA.

Appreciate you putting your ideas out there as always.

Quick question – in these sentences: “During this period, our purchases were more broadly distributed across two quadrants: up and down the Relevance vector, and around the “High” end of the Quality vector. Today, I think, our purchases would be more tightly clustered around the “High” end of the Relevance vector, though still somewhat concentrated at the “High” end of the Quality vector.”

Is our = librarians at your library? Or, does our = the collective all all libraries?

Thanks!

Good question, Lisa. In this context, by “our” I meant “the great majority of academic libraries” — so, someplace on the spectrum between “my library” and “the collective (of) all libraries.” (Please note that I’m not making a categorical statement here — I used the words and phrases “I think,” “more,” and “somewhat” advisedly.)

Thanks. It seems absolutely true to me that no library can afford to buy everything that is potentially relevant but, it also seems to me that collectively our libraries, say in the United States, should be able to. Though I think PDA a worthwhile and defensible strategy, I hope it can work in tandem with strategies that assure a comprehensive collective. When I am a patron, it is hugely frustrating to have multiple options for acquiring “in print” items but essentially none for those that no library collected (whether for quality, relevance, or technological challenge, etc.).

Those are good points, Lisa. I guess one question is: do we think that librarian-driven selection necessarily does a better job of creating a comprehensive collective than patron-driven selection does–bearing in mind that PDA never means offering patrons access to the whole universe of books, but rather to a subset of that universe that is defined by librarians?

In the abstract? Yes. No. Maybe. 🙂 Ultimately, I think that’s an empirical question which would be very difficult to study given we don’t have separate “collectives” to compare. But, I don’t know that it need be framed as competing approaches? Hence my comment about strategies working in tandem with PDA.

I find myself reflecting… in stating “PDA never means offering patrons access to the whole universe of books, but rather to a subset of that universe that is defined by librarians” … that may be the contemporary case; however, it need not be and, if I might be bold, maybe should not be?

in stating “PDA never means offering patrons access to the whole universe of books, but rather to a subset of that universe that is defined by librarians” … that may be the contemporary case; however, it need not be and, if I might be bold, maybe should not be?

Another good question. I’ve always said (and continue to believe) that if a library has an unlimited budget and infinitely expandable space, then of course it should own and offer access to everything ever published–mainly because you can never tell what will ultimately be relevant and useful to your scholars and what won’t. But for as long as we have strictly limited budgets and strictly limited space, the universe of what we offer access to will have to be limited as well. And for an academic institution, it seems to me that the institution’s academic mission will have to define the outer boundaries of that universe–whether that universe is a collection of documents purchased by librarians or a defined set of documents offered to patrons for potential acquisition via PDA mechanisms.

You would know better than I but it seems to me that PDA profiles don’t get near as expansive at the boundaries of the institution’s academic mission. Curious though – mission seems like a “relevancy” criteria … isn’t that then problematic?

You’re right that PDA profiles generally constitute a defined subset of the total mission boundaries–that’s mainly because no library (that I’m aware of) is building its entire collection based on PDA. That, in turn, is at least partly because only a subset of what we would like to make available to patrons is available on a PDA basis. What we’re all typically doing is using PDA as one facet of our overall collection-building strategy. I generally advocate for an aggressive PDA strategy and one that becomes more comprehensive over time, but I would imagine that the future will still feature some mix of patron- and librarian-driven collecting.

As for whether mission constitutes a “relevancy” criterion: it absolutely does, and I don’t think that’s problematic at all. On the contrary: I think it’s essential. As I explained in my posting, my view is that in an academic library that is doing its job right, relevance is going to trump quality more often than quality trumps relevance.

Realizing that as foundation to my question I confused your “potential relevancy” principle with the time-bound notion of current institutional mission. Apologies.

Reblogged this on DailyHistory.org and commented:
Rick Anderson at the Scholarly Kitchen has an article that describes the dilemma faced by academic research libraries when buying new books. Do they buy books based on quality or relevance? Anderson creates a matrix model to illustrate this dilemma. Anderson currently believes that while quality still matters, it is ultimately trumped by relevance. Libraries are now being guided by the interests of their customers. Anderson adds that “the library exists to facilitate new scholarship – and new scholarship requires access to more than just what is good and true.”

Thanks for another interesting post on this topic, Rick. As Tom notes above, there are increasing echoes of journal debates in the monograph world, whether it is balancing quality and relevance, or trying to ascertain “impact” (different, I think, to relevance) when making publishing decisions. The current AAU/ARL initiative recognizes the impossibility of using a market-driven model for books that are so often as much about credentialing as they are about advancing a field. A digital OA model would seem to answer all of these challenges – access is open to all regardless of library budget, and the scholarship published joins the digital mainstream where its relevance and long-term impact will ultimately be decided. PDA seems to be a stepping stone that understandably serves libraries’ needs, but deepens the financial burden for already-strapped university presses. It seems more than time to reinvent the monograph, preserving the legitimacy of the current system but improving everything else – a project we’re hard at work on here at UC Press.

I was going to make this point myself, but Alison beat me to it. Open access resolves the dilemma of quality vs relevance. Because everything published under this model is available to everyone free of charge, it doesn’t matter whether it is relevant or not, because no purchasing decision is being made. It also frees presses to concentrate almost solely on quality. (I say “almost” because even under this model limited resources will require presses to make choices about what books to publish, and for those presses relevance is relevant in another way: just as no library can purchase every book, no press can publish every book either, and it choices will be constrained by what it considers “relevant” to its mission, which is importantly related to the strengths of its parent university–in a way very similar to what relevance means for Rick’s preferred use of PDA.)

Because everything published under this model is available to everyone free of charge, it doesn’t matter whether it is relevant or not, because no purchasing decision is being made.

The problem with this argument is that if a book is produced, then scarce resources are being allocated to its production regardless of whether readers or libraries are the ones footing the bill. So the important question remains: should this book be published? I’m not saying this question is easy to answer; I’m only saying that it’s an important one. And I guess I’m also saying that relevance is a relevant criterion in answering it. (And please note that I said “a relevant criterion,” not “the only relevant criterion.”)

Rick, I completely agree that relevance is an important criterion, and a perfectly reasonable one for libraries to use in building collections. As publishers, we make somewhat different decisions about what should be published. Quality is certainly a big one, but most of us also make attempts to assess “impact” – we all want to publish books that will help shape research and even public discourse. But just in the same way that libraries cannot assess long-term relevance, it’s very hard for us to assess impact. For example, one of our bestselling titles this year (over 9,000 copies sold!) is a first book by an associate professor based on his doctoral research. So I do think there’s a strong argument for a low-cost, digital OA model that allows this scholarship to find its own place in the world – or not.

Based on a belief that the problem of the monograph is a systemic dysfunction, our model is a community one which shares cost and risk. The largest part of publishing costs will be recouped from a title publication fee (which we assume will typically be paid by the institution), but will also be supported by libraries (via a membership model), POD revenue and support from the Press. We’ve been doing extensive research among librarians, faculty and senior administrators, and have been pleased with the level of support from all stakeholders.

Glad to hear that UC Press is having success with this model. The new Amherst College Press is taking a different approach, mainly using endowment money to fund ongoing staffing costs. All of its monograph will be OA.

In the journal area the HSS people argue that they do not have the money for APCs. Doesn’t that apply to TPFs as well? Publication will be limited by available funds and selection will be made by the funding institutions. This basically eliminates relevance, or even quality, as a criterion, does it not?

This has certainly been the case up until pretty recently, but there are major structural initiatives underway that are driving change. Institutions themselves are starting to recognize their role – I’ve spoken to many deans who understand that, for first books especially, they will need to contribute, and there are important initiatives underway through both the Mellon Foundation and AAU/ARL that will start to address the shift in funding. So while there are still plenty of challenges, I think we’re at a point when change is possible.

The question is whether it is desirable. It might lead to university presses becoming captive vanity presses for their institutional patrons. It will probably look that way in any case.

That’s actually the way the UC Press began, David, as a service agency for the university faculty. Some experts, like Kathleen Fitzpatrick, have raised the question whether that model may not be worth revisiting.

My first comment is that libraries can now wait to buy materials with delayed relevance because digital materials are more likely to remain in print and because the out-of-print book market has greatly increased the availability of out-of-print resources. Before the Internet, the overhead costs of finding a wanted missed book were so high that buying just-in-case made more sense. Today, buying a book later might even save money over the original purchase price.

Next, a low quality book on a hot topic may need to be purchased as some have already obliquely said in other comments. Especially if the book is an early publication in an emerging area, researchers will need to access it as part of their literature review. The press may have even decided to publish such a book based upon positive sales projections for a hot topic.

My last comment is one where I know that Rick and I disagree. In teaching my introduction to libraries course, one the first articles that students read stated, I believe correctly, that libraries exist to serve the goals of the host institution. If the host institution wishes to tenure faculty where the requirement is a published book, supporting university presses by purchasing most university press publications would make sense as long as other libraries did the same since the faculty at the host institution would then have a better chance of getting published. With current trends, I realize that this argument carries little weight since PDA is now widespread enough to undermine any chance of this happening as each library looks more, perhaps correctly, at achieving its immediate, short term goals. In an earlier discussion on The Scholarly Kitchen, we agreed that buying only relevant materials is pushing Humanities and some Social Science research away from niche topics to more mainstream areas where relevance will engender enough book sales to justify publication. Scholars who spend their lives researching esoteric topics may be a disappearing species.

With current trends, I realize that this argument carries little weight since PDA is now widespread enough to undermine any chance of this happening as each library looks more, perhaps correctly, at achieving its immediate, short term goals.

… where the phrase “immediate, short-term goals” could just as correctly be rendered “demonstrated scholarly needs of students and faculty.” 😉

Peter C. Herman, professor of English Literature at San Diego State University, also has some thoughts on PDA and the Faustian bargain that libraries are taking.
http://timesofsandiego.com/opinion/2014/09/29/hidden-costs-e-books-university-libraries/

Made me think that perhaps the most accurate way to edit Bob’s sentence might be—

With current trends, I realize that this argument carries little weight since PDA is now widespread enough to undermine any chance of this happening as each library looks more, perhaps correctly, at achieving the demonstrated, yet short-term scholarly needs of students and faculty.

Tony, can you tell us what you think were the most convincing points in Prof. Herman’s piece?

I think his best point was his last one:

If e-book packages sound like a poor idea, then the answer is to restore higher education funding to a level where we don’t have to make such terrible decisions.

But the bulk of his posting was about why he thinks ebooks are a terrible idea. What I’m asking is why you agree with him. What compelling points do you feel he made in support of his argument?

I added a comment to the article to point out that PDA is not limited to being used to purchase ebooks; print books can be purchased also.

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