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The state of scholarly e-books today and tomorrow: David Whitehair, OCLC

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E-books play an increasingly important role in research libraries. We ask people from across the industry for their perspective on scholarly e-books today

David Whitehair, senior product manager, OCLC

The first challenge for libraries that is routinely mentioned is the rapidly-growing investment required for e-books. From a staff standpoint, there can be many systems that must interact within the workflow for e-books. This might include several databases for tracking, additional toolsets for acquisitions, data management and communication. It should be noted that the number of "systems" can be far greater depending on the library’s demographics – for example, consortial memberships, branch locations, size, and type. We have also seen many cases where the management of e-books includes multiple manual steps and toolsets, including email records, and spreadsheets. The lack of integration summarises the challenges – both within the e-book workflow and to outside systems (financial, student information etc.) and organisations. The goal is to have a ‘system’ and/or set of services that are unified and provide sufficient analytical information to support effective collection decisions.

Libraries ask us to provide high-quality metadata – comprehensive, current and regularly updated – for e-books across a number of providers. They also ask for improved services for patron-driven acquisition, interlending, and systems that provide end to end integration of the e-book workflow. The latter refers to services support from selection to discovery (flexible and fast access by users) and analytics that support each phase of this cycle.

Ultimately, the user wants fast access from the starting point of their search (e.g. Google, Amazon) to the materials, in the form they need. Ideally, the community should experience this via the library in as easy a way as they do from other sources. The challenges with delivery include: finding the materials, by desired search terms or perhaps evaluative content such as TOCs or reviews; obtaining them, which frequently requires access via suppliers’ web site; and using the materials on their device of choice.