From the ACRL blog comes "The Paperless Dorm Room"
"Joseph Storch has an idea... to deal with textbook piracy - have all publishers put their books on a common electronic platform and let the colleges negotiate a subscription on behalf of students and dole out royalties to publishers based on use. Students will be fine with it because online is where students are at, and if a few students insist on printing content, well, even so “the system could save considerable paper.” And publishers might even start creating some digital content to supplement textbooks. What a concept!
Evidently Mr. Storch, an assistant counsel in the State University of New York’s Office of University Counsel, knows something about intellectual property law, but hasn’t paid much attention to the textbook industry and the masses of expensive online content they bundle with books, or to how students prefer to read...."
Barbara Fister goes on to point out that students will print out articles they want to read in depth, mark up, and bring to class... so paper cost moves from the publisher to the student. Libraries supply lots of additional online digital content. It still costs a lot - I spend as much on digital content as I do on physical, paper content each year. Our online use went up nearly 10%; our physical circulation rose only 1%. So yes, there is preference there.
But I can't get a subscription based on use - it's always based on the old model of charging for 5000+ (Full-time Equivalency)students at the college. So even for very limited databases, such as "Theater in Video" or "Safari" (technology books), I have to pay for the potential use, not the probable use. Would that I could.