eBook collection challenges for librarians

What are the barriers to building an eBook collection?

Filed under: eBooks

The eBook market was never going to be simple. The rapid growth seen over the past few years within the academic segment has left many struggling to keep up. On the one hand we have publishing organizations rapidly digitizing front- and back-list titles to meet massive demand and on the other, e-hungry researchers, students and academics who are fuelling that demand. The librarian or information specialist is invariably faced with the enormous task of procuring and managing eBook content, as well as delivering it effectively to the right end-users.Take our quick eBook poll

"the eBook market was never going to be simple"

So what are the main problems with eBook procurement and how can they be solved? At a time where over 95% of academic libraries have eBooks in their holdings, with a global average of 34,000 titles per institution back in 2010, you might have thought the issues have had ample time to be ironed out. Think again.

What we already know
So, let’s rewind a bit. The results of a Swets survey, presented at the Hellenic Conference of Academic Libraries back in 2010, revealed the three top issues that librarians faced when dealing with building eBook collections:

Barrier to eBook adoption

  1. Discoverability and identification of book titles in digital format. i.e. how/where to check if there is an eBook version of a print title
  2. Selecting from multiple catalogues, multiple online shops, and vastly different pricing models from vendor to vendor
  3. Comparing license conditions between different suppliers and getting to grips with the complexity of some terms and conditions


Issues in eBook workflow for libraries

But what about metadata?
A second Swets study from 2011 reported another important roadblock for easy adoption, concerning the electronic nature of the text itself. Accurate MARC/ONIX records have historically not been supplied consistently in terms of format or quality. The delivery of these data from the publisher for each text reduces processing times associated with checking in new products and having to manually input the information.

"there is still some way to go until complete standardization"

Librarians demand these data from publishers, but there is still some way to go until complete standardization. Accurate metadata assists the librarian in delivering the right content to their users and provides rich catalogue entries for their collection. In the UK at least, JISC has funded research into the requirements for this kind of background data – the results can be found here: Patron Driven Acquisitions (PDA) and the role of metadata in the discovery, selection and acquisition of ebooks.

eBook Mobility?Portability and compatibility issues with eBooks
eBook formats are also a challenge. Where titles are not published on the web as HTML, some publishers  adopted the versatile ePub (and ePub3) format, some still use PDF, others ‘.mobi’ and so on, which are only compatible with certain devices. Then there are further complications with compatibility and portability across eReaders, tablets, smartphones and so on, where formats may not be transferrable across multiple devices.  This issue is further confounded by restrictive licensing conditions. On occasions, licenses may vary dramatically from almost no DRM to the complete inability to print, carry remotely or interact with the content in any kind of meaningful way.

What other issues are at the top of your agenda?
Aside from the topics outlined above, what other issues do you face in your library with eBooks and building your collection? Where are the real pain points that absorb a lot of time from your working schedule?

Please leave your comments and suggestions below.