04 November 2019 Blogs, Academic, Community College, Corporate, Government, Faculty, Librarian

See the Data: The Value of DRM-Free Content

Chapter downloads appear to be a ‘sweet spot’ for researchers between fully locked-down ebooks and fully DRM-free ebooks.

Chapter downloads appear to be a ‘sweet spot’ for researchers between fully locked-down ebooks and fully DRM-free ebooks

Last September, ProQuest announced the availability of more than 100,000 digital rights management (DRM)-free titles on Ebook Central. DRM-free content comes without download, print or copy/paste restrictions, and it’s accessible on (and transferrable between) any type of reader.

One year later, ProQuest has grown its DRM-free pool to nearly 200,000 titles from 340 publishers – and those numbers continue to increase. DRM-free content in the Academic Complete subscription is now available through ProQuest One Academic. In addition, 1.3 million Ebook Central books allow DRM-free chapter-level downloads.

It’s also now easier for patrons to find which titles are available without restrictions.

“DRM-free is one of the most frequently requested features from librarians, so we’re working hard to ensure that we offer as much DRM-free content as possible,” said Leigh Beauchamp, Vice President of Product Management for Ebook Central. “Giving Ebook Central patrons access to DRM-free content is a decision made by publishers and we’ve been working closely with our publisher partners to gain the rights to acquire their content without restrictions.”

So how much value are patrons finding in this wealth of DRM-free content? In looking at a year of aggregated Ebook Central usage data, we’ve seen some interesting trends:

Full-book downloads for titles upgraded to DRM-free status have increased 93 percent in a year-over-year comparison.
Chapter downloads have increased 45 percent in a year-over-year comparison.
Patrons opt for chapter downloads three times more often than full-book downloads.

What does this mean?

“It is clear that DRM-free content is valuable for patrons, but it’s interesting and somewhat surprising that we are seeing more chapter downloads than full-book downloads,” said Beauchamp. “This aligns with the way that patrons are using books in their research process. Instead of reading entire monographs, patrons have traditionally relied on select chapters for their research needs.  If you think of DRM on a continuum, chapter downloads appear to be a ‘sweet spot’ between fully locked-down ebooks and fully DRM-free ebooks.  Librarians, publishers and aggregators like ProQuest should work together to understand and remove barriers to patrons’ accessibility to content.”

When negotiating the acquisition of content, she added, ProQuest proactively seeks out content with no restrictions.

“We encourage librarians to join our mission to continue to advocate for DRM-free parity from publishers,” said Beauchamp. “Whether it’s through conversations, presentations, social media or other channels, please help us encourage the publishing community to support libraries’ choice of platforms and vendors by making DRM-free content more available.”