The state of scholarly e-books today and tomorrow: Katrin Siems, De Gruyter

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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

Katrin Siems, vice president marketing sales, De Gruyter

All our publications are available as e-books and we have over 10,000 e-books live on our platform.

Our entire backlist (more than 40,000 books) is also available through our e-dition programme. The thought behind e-dition is simple: any backlist title that is not yet published as an e-book can be ordered, and we will produce an e-book. E-books have become much more common; in 2012 we doubled our sales. We also see a strong usage in our backlist e-books.

Even though STM started going digital much earlier than the humanities, there are some surprises. For example, we get the feedback from libraries that mathematicians are still asking very much for print books, whereas there is an increasing demand for e-books in philosophy.

It is still the reality that most scholarly publishers offer simple PDF e-books that are the exact equivalent of the printed version. However, we are now beginning to work with XML data that is being used for interlinking of references and for highlighting related documents. We are also investing in technologies like semantic enrichment in order to offer better and more relevant search results for our electronic content.

We use only soft DRM (digital rights management), namely watermarks. A user can download, print and forward our e-book chapters as he or she likes. We feel it is important not to restrict usage, and this is also what our library customers request from us. But of course we do not accept our books being hosted on illegal file sharing platforms. We take legal actions in those cases.

We started doing open-access (OA) e-books in 2009 and have been working with academics and societies on various projects ever since. Recently we signed a framework agreement with the Max Planck Society on OA publications. We now also offer a business model for libraries in which a librarian can buy a package of article processing fees for OA book chapter and journal articles. There is no reason to assume that OA does not work with books.