Hong Kong, mainland universities in e-book sharing scheme

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The “Inter-regional e-book Consortium on English Academic Titles with the University Libraries in mainland China and Hong Kong” was launched in late 2009 by the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) Library, Peking University Library and China Academic Humanities and Social Sciences Library (CASHL). This collaborative project has been widely and rapidly embraced by the university communities of the mainland and Hong Kong, assisting more than 500,000 students and teachers in one month.

The consortium consists of 15 well-established university libraries in mainland China and Hong Kong. Partnering with CASHL on a pilot basis, the participating libraries overcame the system restrictions and jurisdiction differences on acquisition, collection and copyright and have acquired 4,425 titles (9,781volumes) of English academic e-books. Of these, more than 80% are humanities and social sciences titles published between 2006 and 2009.

The consortium’s conference was held in Beijing on 27 January, with members discussing the effectiveness of the collaboration and future strategic development of the project.

The CityU Library and Peking University Library set up a working group in 2008 to explore the possibility of collaborative development of English e-titles and the consortium was officially launched in December 2009. Participating universities of the consortium are Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Nanjing University, Zhejiang University, Xiamen University, Wuhan University, Sun Yat-sen University, CityU, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong Institute of Education.

All participants at the meeting, including the 17 library coordinators from CASHL and the management of the 15 participating university libraries, unanimously agreed that this consortium initiative marked a pioneering step in the development of a cross-border collection and inter-library loans. The consortium has brought about many encouraging new changes, including changing the acquisition and circulation models of English academic titles, restructuring the autonomous acquisition approach to a cross-border coordinated approach with an emphasis on collective collection development, and breaking the geographic boundaries on collection circulation. University libraries can also now enjoy better discounts from publishers for the mass purchase of titles. An e-book purchased within the new collaborative structure costs about a twentieth the price of a printed book acquired on an individual basis.

University libraries nowadays face the challenge presented by space and resource limitations. With book prices on the rise, every title acquisition has to be made cautiously. The consortium, by sharing resources, avoids the acquisition of duplicate copies and enables members to make good use of university resources on the mainland and in Hong Kong. Member libraries first make acquisitions in view of their own needs, with all acquired titles stored in a common electronic repository. The substantial savings in unnecessary purchases can be used to enhance other library services.

The consortium’s acquisitions are carefully selected by library professionals with a guaranteed standard determined by their academic value and quality. Recent acquisitions have been sourced from nearly 100 respected academic publishers around the globe, such as Taylor & Francis, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and CRC Press.

The collaborative collection of electronic resources shared between the mainland and Hong Kong has proven an early success. On a wider scale, the project serves as a model for cross-border collaboration among education providers. All of the participating university libraries have described the inter-regional e-book consortium as beneficial in widening their collections.

Media enquiries: Michelle Leung, Communications and Public Relations Office, CityU (3442-6827 or 9050-7507).

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