Bringing e-book resources together

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Last year the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) published a study into scholarly books carried out by consultant Laura Cox. Among the many findings, the study revealed that aggregators and e-book vendors were the favoured channels to market for publishers, although publishers' own platforms and those of their hosting company were also well used. Sian Harris asked some e-book providers about the role of aggregators, their relationships with publishers and the business models being used

Scott Wasinger is the senior director of sales, eBooks and audiobooks at EBSCO

We continue to see growing interest in e-books. In the face of budget challenges, libraries are increasingly looking to electronic resources including e-books to return the best value on expenditures. And, as the market matures, libraries expect more from their e-books. They want improved user experience, the ability for users to search across multiple content types through a single interface and improved collection development and collection management resources for the library. They also want more flexible licensing and acquisition options, and more content.

Aggregators provide a way for libraries to give a unified experience for e-books across any number of publishers. This includes the platform for searching, purchase and access models, collection management tools and more. Aggregators like EBSCO provide the ability for libraries to not only search/browse e-books on their own, but provide an interwoven experience of e-books and journal-oriented databases. This improves access for users, and efficiencies for libraries.

E-book aggregators and publishers are mutually interested in providing the best collections of content and licensing arrangements to drive e-book adoption and usage. All of our e-book collections include titles from multiple publishers. In response to growing library interest in these collections, we continue adding more every year. Subject Sets are the only ‘pre-packaged’ e-books that we currently provide. All other collection development approaches are on a title-by-title basis, such that libraries can determine which e-books they wish to purchase – from any number of publishers.

We currently offer single and two-user e-books under a purchase model, for which libraries pay a one-time fee and own the content. In the coming months, we will offer three-user and unlimited-user e-books under a purchase model, as well as an e-book subscription offering. Later in the year, we plan to offer a lease, or short-term access, option and an enhanced version of our current PDA (Patron Driven Acquisition) programme.

We have seen some interest in chapter-level licensing and expect to see more. At this time, there are no options to purchase at the chapter level but, as with ‘whole’ e-books, we will continue to evaluate and explore creative options for purchase.

We are preparing the infrastructure to support this type of delivery in the event that market demand and publisher interest reach the appropriate level to offer this type of purchase option.

Being able to search across a collection of the highest quality, most relevant scholarly monographs from the world’s top publishers, to access them instantly as e-books, and to have the option to combine that search with other electronic resources is a tremendous advantage for research. As such, we see a bright future with e-books for research, with a better experience for using and downloading e-books, and an overall improvement to academic research with databases and e-books in a single, native search environment.

Mike Sweet is CEO of Credo Reference

From our standpoint there are many different models for e-books and a lot of fragmentation. Some people are basically turning print books into PDFs. They allow keyword searching but are not fundamentally changing the concept of books. Others like us are completely deconstructing them.

We take reference books, deconstruct the content, and repackage and repurpose it to take advantage of new technology. We think of our platform in terms of having nearly four million entries rather than the 700 to 750 books that these entries come from. This is how people use reference, rather than exploring concepts alphabetically. You’d never read a reference book cover to cover, so electronic is far superior to the print world for reference. There is connectivity through mark-up and semantic-type searching to see patterns and inter-related content. It mirrors what users see on the rest of the web.

We see ourselves as a lot of different things, not really an aggregator but an online reference service. Our platform has small pieces of information that are easy to find and use. It started with a core general reference product. Since then we have launched collections to go deeper into topics. Each collection has content from 30 to 60 titles, although this will not be apparent to the user.

Publishers also sell this content as e-books and different publishers have their own approaches. Some use online aggregators, some sell through their own platforms. There are so many choices to consider.

Over the last 10 years there has been a big decrease in the cost of converting reference book content to XML. This is because the partners who do the conversion work have become more skilled, and because the publishers themselves have been moving to XML workflows.

We also see changes in the way that publishers are putting their books together. They are bringing in more video, audio and linking, recognising the potential for use online. Publishers are also breaking up content themselves. There are experiments across the board.

We now have Topic Pages, which are searchable in Google and assemble resources from the rest of a user’s collection. These are designed to be discoverable on the open web and can be customised by local librarians. We are looking into semantic searching and ontology building, and how to incorporate this into Credo Reference. We are also partnering with discovery tools. One of the things we believe in is the role of the intermediary to help shape the environment for users.

We are working with most leading reference publishers and it is an ongoing conversation. We spend a lot of time acquiring good content. We’ve taken the approach to not remove content from our collections. We do replace titles with newer editions if they are not substantially different as part of our subscription service.

We don’t take a competitive view with publishers. We think of it very much like partnerships. We don’t believe that any good can come out of squeezing our publisher partners.

Kevin Sayars is president and general manager of ebrary, which became part of ProQuest earlier this year

The demand for offline and online reading on mobile devices is one of the clearest and fastest-growing trends we’ve observed recently. Today, studies show that 90 per cent of 19- to 29-year-olds owns a cell phone, and the mobile web is expected to be bigger than desktop internet use by 2015.

Another trend that we are seeing is a shift in spending from print to digital as libraries are experiencing budget cuts. Academic libraries, for example, increased their spending on e-books by 23 per cent in 2010.

Aggregators can offer a wide range of content from large publishers that wish to supplement their own digital sales as well as smaller publishers that can’t afford to build their own platforms. Additionally, they offer a more integrated solution to libraries on a fewer number of platforms, which provides a better research experience for the end-user. Aggregators also provide a single point of purchase and easier licensing and invoicing.

For the most part, the relationship between aggregators and publishers is excellent. Book publishers have not traditionally been close to libraries, so aggregators can act not only as a channel and sales team, but also as a resource for market and user intelligence.

Additionally, while large publishers with their own platforms are able to sell collections, they often do not have the expertise or ability to sell individual titles. Title-by-title selection is a model that most aggregators can offer publishers for an additional revenue stream.

Lastly, ebrary often works with our publishing partners to show customers the enhanced value of offering e-books on both platforms, also known as “dual hosting.”

ebrary offers subscription, perpetual access (purchase), and patron-driven acquisition (PDA). A short-term loans model is slated for the second quarter of this year. All models serve different needs, and many of our customers have acquired content from ebrary under multiple models so it is difficult to say which is most popular.

Academic Complete with DASH! is our flagship subscription product, which includes a growing collection of more than 52,100 e-books from 500 publishers. Under this model there is tremendous interest in packaging content from multiple publishers. Academic Complete provides an instant digital library from which libraries can build their e-book collections.

Under a perpetual-access model, there is not as much interest in pre-packaged titles from multiple publishers. However, we are seeing some demand for putting together large packages from the university presses, which have a similar profile and enable libraries to build a university press ‘brand’. Additionally, our e-book Starter Packs, which contain essential titles spanning publishers, have been highly successful, especially among libraries that are not well-resourced in their selection processes.

We have not received much interest from our library customers in purchasing individual chapters or sections of e-books; however we believe it would be useful for faculty in the creation of course packs.

ebrary currently offers faculties, students, and other end-users the ability to rank their search results by individual chapters as well as print individual chapters. We plan to talk to libraries further to better understand their needs in this area.

It is increasingly clear that success in the future will mean more than simply making content available on our platform. True value, regardless of the format, is driven by discovery. The acquisition of ebrary by ProQuest provides enormous opportunities to make our titles discoverable in a wide variety of environments. Soon patrons will be able to discover ebrary titles on the newly-launched ProQuest platform, through Serials Solutions’ Summon [see pages 16 to 18], and through Bowker’s discovery services.

In addition, ebrary is keenly aware that libraries are increasingly interested in ‘pushing’ services to the various environments that patrons use on a daily basis. This means that we must think about discovery beyond the traditional research environment and eloquently integrate it into social networks, mobile devices, and learning management systems.

Underpinning all of this is the fact that patrons care much less about format than they do about simply finding the right information the minute they need it. The discovery experience we are creating must take this into account.

Wouter van der Velde is eProduct manager for eBooks & databases and eProducts marketing at Springer

Springer is the largest STM e-book publisher in number of titles. These titles are published within a wide range of scientific disciplines. Springer e-books are distributed through three channels.

Librarians can buy Springer eBooks from Springer as a one-off purchase per copyright year, for one or more of our 12 subject collections. All the books that Springer publishes are included in the subject collections, including major reference works and textbooks. Once a library has purchased one or more subject collections there are no restrictions on the use. There are no limitations on the number of concurrent users, no maximum number of downloads, and the content is not wrapped in DRM. This means that (within copyright laws), the user can save the content, share it, and can copy and paste from it.

This access option is most popular amongst researchers and librarians, because they have access to a critical mass of content, with the fewest restrictions regarding access and use of the full-text content, as well as finding the exact content they were looking for. Libraries get a good return on investment, as they see a long tail of usage.

Springer also partners with various aggregators, such as NetLibrary, ebrary, Myilibrary and EBL, to disseminate a large part of the content. Springer has a good relationship with aggregators, which sometimes specialise to serve specific markets or customers. It is important to serve all customers, and therefore we work closely with them to distribute our content. Where customers are in a very specialised area of research, and only need a small subset of our content, an aggregated solution could be their best option.

Individuals can also buy Springer eBook titles through partners like Amazon (kindle), Barnes and Noble (, Google, and Apple iBookstore.

Springer eBooks on Springerlink are available by chapter, or by reference work entry, because many researchers search for content that matches their search-query. The information they are looking for might be in only one chapter of an e-book. Institutional customers, who have purchased one or more subject collections, have access to the full-text documents of the chapters. Springer also sees an interest in ‘pay per view’ purchase of e-book chapters/sections on SpringerLink.

We foresee that mobile reading is going to take off even further in research. The devices are in place (smartphones, tablets, etc), the infrastructure is developed (3G networks, broadly-available WiFi). The content formats are ready (epub3, html5) and the publishers are producing the content.

It’s exciting!

Rich Rosy is vice president and general manager of Ingram Library Services, an Ingram Content Group company

Academic usage of e-books has been on a slow but steady climb over the course of the last few years. As more content becomes available and additional usage models are introduced to the market we see that upward trend continuing.

Aggregators play a very important role in e-books for research by serving as a central repository for publishers and offering a full range of content on many subjects. Aggregators can offer the most relevant and compelling content from many publishers from one source to libraries. Institutions that work with an aggregator with a robust platform have the ability to select and customise the content relevant to their area of need and are able to search across a broad spectrum of titles.

Ingram enjoys a strong and collaborative relationship with publishers. Open communication between Ingram and the publishers we work with is contributing to the creation of solutions.

Ingram Content Group offers multiple e-book access solutions so libraries can select the most relevant solution for their needs. Currently, our Patron Driven Select model is the most popular access model – it is a model that is driven by demand based on patron need. In addition to patron-driven acquisition models, Ingram offers outright title purchase, consortia purchasing and loan models providing both single and multi-user access.

There is a great deal of interest in collections of e-book titles from multiple publishers, and many libraries that work with Ingram are purchasing collections of e-book titles across a broad spectrum of publishers. Libraries are managing their e-book purchases in the same way as their traditional print book collections and integrating e-book purchases into their acquisition processes.

We are seeing some increase in inquiries from libraries about chapter provision. We are also seeing some interest in e-book individual chapters from publishers as they are now beginning to separate chapters as they format content. However, currently a book in the academic space is typically set up and managed differently from journal publications. Articles in journals are stand-alone content pieces and can be managed as such. Book chapters are not necessarily stand-alone units, which can make chaptering a challenge. That said, the short-term challenge for individual e-book chapter purchase will be the business model for selling chapters and the metadata for discovery.