eBooks have helped redefine how people acquire, read and share books, and as sales continue to grow, many publishers are struggling to find the right model that matches their needs, especially in libraries.
Library patrons are facing challenges related to eBooks, from choosing a physical eReader or the right software, to accessibility concerns for the visually and hearing impaired.
And, of course, libraries themselves face numerous challenges, including the seemingly simple question: How do you check out an eBook?For Public Libraries, Academic and College libraries this a huge question. One that the publishers who sell their content to those libraries are trying to better understand. The traditional approach of checking out a book, one patron at a time, for a set period of time, works well for print and has for many years. In the digital book world, however, that model is not as efficient and the software/systems that replicate the print model has glitches and faults; everything from not letting a patron check an eBook back in, to checking it in and then freezing up and allowing no other patrons to access it. It’s an antiquated model being applied to a new format.
By antiquated what I mean is that for a digital book, a traditional checkout setup is neither efficient nor does it optimally serve the purpose an eBook is intended for, making content easily accessible to multiple users, 24×7. Applying a traditional check-out model makes no sense; you might as well just buy another print edition.
The better models out there involve a multiple-user, simultaneous-use approach where anyone can access any title at the same time, any time. Some enable this literally, and others have caveats, eg: 365 uses of a title in a year. They don’t count individual users accessing the same eBook in a 24-hour period, rather unique users in that period of time. That’s still better than a traditional check-out approach. To libraries, specifically public libraries and those in academia this a needed model, especially if you are serving hundreds of thousands of patrons, do you really wan to have to worry about due dates for an eBook? This is the last thing a Collection Development librarian or Acquisitions librarian needs to be concerned with.
But this brings up another question related to accessing eBooks for libraries.
Is it better to go direct to a publishers’ proprietary platform or use a third-party’s broader offerings? To me, the answer is simple: a third-party platform that offers the largest selection.
With libraries facing the another round of budget cuts and staff reductions, acquisitions of and access to eBooks is not something they need to be difficult. By going through a third-party vendor they have access to a greater amount of eBooks; roughly 200,000 titles from the biggest aggregators. Many of these aggregators are also hosting the content/eBooks, freeing up internal system resources.
Libraries can also gain access to tools that can cross-link other research tools to eBooks, allowing for greater discoverability and maximum usage.
It makes no sense to invest in eBooks if they are going to be treated the same as print books. A patron shouldn’t have to be put on a waiting list for a digital file that is just sitting there, where they can see it but cannot access it.
Dump the traditional check-out model and embrace multiple users; library patrons will thank you for it. You’ll find more efficiency, more usage of content and happy librarians, who will purchase more eBooks.