The state of scholarly e-books today and tomorrow: Olga Chiarcos and Jennifer Kemp, Springer

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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

Olga Chiarcos, project manager for the Springer Book Archives, and Jennifer Kemp, eProducts manager for eBooks at Springer, which launched its Springer Book Archives with 37,000 English-language books at the ALA meeting in January and 28,000 German books at the Leipzig Book Fair in March

OC: Our priority was titles that were internationally relevant. There will be around 50,000 English-language titles and 50,000 German titles.

One important issue has been identifying all these titles. We have 170 years of history and lots of companies have joined or left us so, there is no single record of all books published and ISBN has not been around for all of that time.

The second challenge has been contacting authors. Many books were published before e-rights was ever considered. We tried to reach authors via all possible channels. Everyone in the company had a Springer Book Archives mission in every author conversation.

We are now close to contacting every author that we have. Some haven’t responded and there are limits to how far you can go. We have also evaluated our contracts and digitised contracts that were only in print. Legislation has clear deadlines regarding e-rights in copyrights.

Our aim is to digitise every one of those books and, in the interest of scientific record, every edition of each book. Sometimes people need a clear point of reference. Edition management is very important and we offer edition information in our metadata that libraries can download for free from our website.

The cost has been significant so we are highly interested in the success of the product. Our ambition has been to provide the same quality as the front list. This means full-text search functionality. This is a challenge for scanned books because it means we need to do optical character recognition. We also integrate them in the same way into all our distribution channels, providing DRM-free, perpetual access. We will offer individual e-books for sale and there is the option of print books, thanks to print on demand.

JK: Last year we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our e-book platform launch. It’s good for Springer to say that many of our early decisions remain today. Libraries tell us all the time that they love that we are DRM-free and say ‘please don’t change it’.

When libraries talk about DRM, their issues are really with their users. Users don’t differentiate between going directly to a publisher site and being allowed to do things seamlessly and going via aggregators, for example, and finding limits. All our books are available as PDF. It may not be sexy but it works and is very portable. We are doing some full-text XML too.

OC: We are looking at other formats, such as full-text XML, which can be made into EPUB. We are doing experiments in, for example, how to do maths formula. We are working with SPi Global and other partners, as well as internal development. At the moment we plan to do 2,000 titles for full-text XML this year.

Basically if you want to do full-text XML you need to typeset from scratch. It is very labour-intensive and there are also differences in how it displays on different devices.

JK: The business model discussion is going to continue. I was a librarian and it’s a pain to keep track of all the different sources. The topic of inter-library loans will continue as there are typically restrictions on what libraries can share electronically. I’m proud that we’ve got a more liberal policy on this.