This post forms part one of a series of five blog posts on the acquisition, management, promotion and creation of ebooks from the learning resource centre (LRC)/library perspective. These blog posts are aimed at giving an introduction to these areas and where possible I’ve tried to include references to further information.
This post focuses on the acquisition perspective, specifically commercial suppliers, and also considerations before purchasing ebooks.
What are ebooks?
Ebooks are quickly becoming staples of a Learning Resource Centre or library service and offer many benefits amongst eresources. Ebooks can be easily accessed by distance learners, offer multiple simultaneous access to core text and can be manipulated for better accessibility. In a presentation to IFLA, CILIP President Phil Bradley quoted that academic libraries offer access to 21,189,696 ebooks.
Jisc Digital Media ‘Introduction to ebooks’ is a guide to what ebooks are, how they can be used to support teaching and learning, an overview of ebook readers (including desktop software), and creating and editing ebook environments.
Ebooks can also provide a challenge for the Learning Resource Centre and careful consideration has to be given to the acquisition, management and promotion of ebooks.
Jisc RSC Wales does not endorse any particular supplier, what is presented here is a list of market leaders in the Welsh academic sector.
Elsevier, Springer Science+Business Media, Wiley and Cambridge University Press
Vendors sell ebooks on behalf of publishers. Two popular vendors for Welsh FE ebook supply are Coutts Myilibrary and Dawsonera. Both allow the purchase of individual titles so it is relatively easy to try out a small collection or pilot with a particular subject area. Both will provide free trials so you can see how they work.
Aggregators supply content from a range of different publishers but unlike vendors who sell content on behalf of publishers, aggregators’ license content from them and sell directly to libraries, hosting the ebooks on their own platform rather than the publisher’s website.
The major aggregators are EBL ebook library, Netlibrary, Ebrary, EBSCOhost, Credo, Bloomsbury and Overdrive. For others see the Jisc RSC Wales collection of links.
Models of access
You can compare ebook platforms using a tool from Jisc Collections. It does not compare their actual content or titles available, just the technical and functional aspects of their interfaces. There is currently no single database that lists all books available electronically, along with which publisher/aggregators the title is available on, and whether the titles can be bought singly or as part of a collection.
The IFLA matrix, Models of accessing digital content: Libraries, elending and the future of public access to digital content highlights benchmarks for some of the biggest publishers, online publishers/retailers, distributors, self- publishing, elending models, library initiatives and aggregators of free access to non-copyright restricted content.
The American Library Association has issued a “scorecard” for American public libraries which allows them to rate business models offered by publishers and aggregators which although public library focused can highlight issues faced by FE LRCs when considering different models.
Both Bangor University and the University of Glasgow have explored the use of Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) models. The principle behind PDA is that purchases are triggered for books users’ access, rather than librarians or lecturers creating a collection of materials.
In September 2012 CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) released this briefing paper ‘ebook acquisition and lending briefing: public, academic and research libraries‘ ”It presents some of the legal, strategic and technical problems that arise from the addition of scholarly and trade ebooks to library collections, together with possible solutions. Some of the most common business models are briefly set out. The latest data on ebook usage is also included.”
Jisc InfoNet provides an InfoKit on ‘Working with commercial suppliers’ . Although not specifically about ebook suppliers one of the aims of the InfoKit is “It looks at the types of licensing and contracting arrangements that exist in the Web 2.0/Web 3.0/Cloud environment.”
The Jisc Observatory report states “Institutions need to prepare for new subscription, purchasing and licensing models as the current ones are in an embryonic stage (often following traditional printed-book business
models). If ebooks follow a similar pattern to music and films, these subscription, purchasing and licensing models will evolve and change”
Considerations before purchasing
There are a number of factors you will probably want to investigate when looking at different ebook suppliers’ offerings:
- Usage reports: Are they Counter Compliant? Can you use them to evaluate usage?
- Digital rights Management (DRM): Is it built into the ebooks with associated restrictions? Can the ebooks be copied/pasted/printed/downloaded? Can they be imported into an ereader or other mobile device?
- System access: Does the supplier allow for Federated Access Management, OpenAthens, I.P etc?
- User access: Can multiple users access a book simultaneously? Is there a limit to the number of logins per year?
- Minimum spend/pricing model: Can you purchase on title or do you have to subscribe to a bundle?
- Format: Are the ebooks in HTML, PDF or something else? Does the format have any implications?
- Selection: How many titles does the supplier have? How frequently is the list added to?
- Ownership: Are the ebooks only available while you pay or are they available in perpetuity? How would that work?
- Platform charges: Is there a separate ’platform’ fee i.e. a cost to access the ebooks? Is it annual or one-off?
- Platform interface: Is it user friendly? Can you view the ebook in full screen? Is it easy to navigate?
- Editions: If a newer edition of an ebook comes out, is there an option to upgrade to that edition?
Jisc TechDis can provide guidance, support and advice when considering the accessibility options of ebooks and have recently held an ebooks and accessibility event which was blogged about here. The RNIB is another good resource for ebooks and accessibility and have a ‘Getting started with ebooks guide.’
This post has highlighted some of the major ebook suppliers for Welsh academia, introduced the idea of piloting subject specific collection, the tools available to compare ebook platforms and Jisc services to support the acquisition process. We’ve also looked at some factors to consider when looking at different ebook suppliers’ offerings.
The second post in this series will focus on free (or very cheap) ebooks…
Jisc project, The challenge of eBooks in academic institutions:
Posts from WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) blog:
Posts from Alyson Tyler’s Welsh Libraries Blog: