Last month Proquest announced that it had agreed to acquire EBL, a global eBook aggregator that competes most directly with ebrary in serving academic, research, government and special libraries. Proquest bought ebrary in 2011 and plans to combine the two services after the acquisition is approved.
EBL currently offers a variety of services that Proquest says it plans to keep. These include what EBL calls Non-Linear Lending (NLL): libraries can buy one copy of an eBook and lend it simultaneously to all of its users. The company also offers tools to support demand-driven acquisition of the content it sells.
Too often, acquisitions are used to forestall innovation, and the eBook space is no exception. Amazon’s interest in supporting Stanza ended soon after it acquired the eBook reader. The company saw no value in offering a reader for books acquired outside the Amazon ecosystem.
So it’s refreshing and encouraging that Proquest says it is acquiring EBL so that it can offer more innovative products. Kevin Sayar, Senior Vice President, ProQuest Workflow Solutions, told No Shelf Required:
A major reason ProQuest wished to acquire EBL was to extend their innovative business models, including the patent-protected Non-Linear Lending (NLL) model and chapter-level purchasing. Once integration starts after closing, the team will go through exercises to determine the best parameters for our customers and their patrons within our publisher contracts.
Sure, this could be the kind of thing you say right before you kill a product or try to jack up prices at the libraries you serve. But it could also be a pretty good start for a happier outcome. In the press release, Proquest CEO Kurt Sanford added:
EBL’s first-rate user experience, innovative business models, and acquisition tools are very complementary to ebrary. These features will be combined with ebrary’s unmatched content selection, award-wining subscription service, and cutting edge, patent-protected core platform technology. The result will be an unparalleled e-book research platform that is connected to all of ProQuest’s products and services.
Most libraries aren’t keen to buy multiple platforms just to get access to a complete set of works. Reliability, flexibility, sensible pricing and the ability to adapt to evolving business models are features that matter. I’m hopeful that Proquest will keep and extend those features when merging ebrary and EBL.