23rd July 2020
What’s the situation?

Dawson Books is a long-standing supplier of print and digital books to the HE sector. They are part of a larger group including similar services to FE and Public Libraries as well as wholesaling of books to retail.

After some challenging years, the impact of Covid-19 prompted the owners to put the group up for sale and finally into administration in June 2020.

The greatest impact to SUPC members is the potential loss of e-books licenced via the Dawsonera e-book platform. Many members use Dawson as their primary supplier and many members have legacy collections of titles. There were no guarantees that this content could be safeguarded.

What has SUPC been doing?

SUPC has been working alongside representatives from the APUC, CPC, and EPS frameworks to simplify the flow of information via regular joint meetings with the COO of the group, who has also been kept on by the administrator.

This approach has allowed us to keep our respective members up to date as far as is possible and has accounted for the fact that a lot of information is shared by librarians across non-consortia channels. We have been able to ensure that everyone is receiving the same accurate information.

We have also been able to submit a joint list of questions to address member concerns and to give advice that has helped members to understand their exposure to risk and explore potential solutions via other suppliers.

What do you need to know?

The A.T. Little Group, which includes existing framework suppliers Askews & Holts and Browns Books for Students, has agreed to purchase the assets of both Dawson Books and Dawsonera (the e-book platform).

At the time of writing (21/07/2020) there is still much to resolve but the purchase allows the new owner to transfer a very high percentage of content from the Dawsonera platform to their VLeBooks platform, minimising the risk of members losing access to licenced content permanently.

ProQuest and EBSCO, the other suppliers on Lot 4.1 of the Books framework, are also offering title switching services so members can select according to their existing local arrangements. However, this is a new situation and it remains to be seen quite how much content any supplier will manage to switch. Early reports from members are encouraging, though there is an associated extra workload for them this is obviously preferable to losing content entirely.

What happens next?

Alongside our APUC, CPC, and EPS colleagues we will continue to liaise with both the administrator and the new owner. There are still a number of issues to discuss on behalf of our members and we will continue to communicate as those issues become clearer.

What have we learned?

Though we lament the loss of a long-term and valued supplier we have been able to find opportunity.

The issue of there being no satisfactory ‘safety net’ should one of the framework e-book platforms disappear was already on our radar and work had begun between SUPC and APUC when Dawson Books was put up for sale. The solutions that have arisen via alternative suppliers and the discussions that have taken place within the supply chain have provided hugely valuable input as we seek to embed solutions into our framework agreements.

The situation has also led to category managers from various library-related agreements reaching out to each other to collaborate. Though SUPC and APUC were already working together we have now had the opportunity to work alongside EPS and CPC and share experience along the way. We have many library-related issues in common so we can explore where we should seek to find alignment to work more effectively on behalf of our members.

If you have any questions please contact Category Manager Gavin Phillips at