eBook Standards – summary of NISO/BISG program

Last Friday at ALA I was part of a NISO/BISG panel on the changing standards landscape.  There were many speakers, each discussing various aspects of eBook standards like business models, ISBNs, epub, DRM, and the standards and features needed by librarians (which was my part).  I’ve summarized my presentation here and would welcome additional suggestions and ideas from librarians.  Sue


The Changing Standards Landscape:

Creative Solutions to Your Information Problems

Use of E-Books in a Library Context

Sue Polanka, Head of Reference and Instruction, Wright State University

As e-books become more popular in today’s library, librarians are discovering challenges in finding the best ways to acquire, catalog, access and read the format. This presentation will describe the e-book standards librarians need in MARC records, cataloging and purchasing to improve the dissemination of e-book data throughout a library’s workflow. It will also unpack the necessary “standard” interface features most requested by end users.

Summary of Sue’s presentation:

After speaking with librarians, reading the literature, and reviewing the ebook survey results provided to me by the Publishers Communication Group, Inc., I have 5 categories representing the standards and general business practice needs of libraries in order to successfully adopt ebooks. It’s important to note that our users STILL PREFER PRINT in most cases. The 24/7 access of ebooks has gained them popularity, but most users want to print, download, or cut/paste once the title is found. Please keep this in mind while reading these suggested standards.

1. Metadata – find a standard format for metadata like XML or epub. Whatever the standard becomes, it should be independent of any application, publisher, or distributor.

2. Catalog records/MARC data – the MARC records provided “for free” by many publishers lack consistency and quality. Many librarians bypass these free records, going to OCLC for more robust data that follows existing standards.

a. The bottom line – give us good MARC records for the catalog, all we should have to do is change the link/url for electronic access.

b. Vendor neutral cataloging will be a benefit, having too many records for the same title clutters the catalog and confuses the user.

3. Purchasing – make it as easy as possible for libraries to purchase your ebooks, use good business practices like:

a. Simultaneously release the print and electronic copies (or send e first)

b. Libraries should be able to use existing workflow to purchase ebooks.

i. Sign up with all distributors and aggregators

ii. Get your ebooks in existing approval plans

iii. Send all titles to all distributors and aggregators

iv. Sell title by title, not just by collections or subscriptions

c. Put a price on the book, don’t make us call for pricing on a single title

d. A reliable mechanism should be in place to notify the library that access is now available, or that access has been turned off, depending on a purchase or cancelation.

e. Make forthcoming ebook titles easier to locate

f. Find a way to simplify or standardize the ebook license agreements. It is too time consuming to pour over multiple license agreements for copyright, users, and printing restrictions and allowances. It shouldn’t take a lawyer for us to buy an ebook.

g. We need ILL rights for ebooks if they are to succeed.

4. Access – make it easy for us to find and use the ebooks.

a. This process should not be a burden to users, proprietary software that requires downloads can be prohibitive.

b. Users should not have to visit the library in person for the first login/access of the ebooks, this does not serve our distance learners and remote users.

c. We need insurance on perpetual access, without sending libraries a text file to store.

d. We need ILL rights. At some point the ebook could be the only version of a title, we need to have the right to lend this material just like a print title

e. Reading the long form of an ebook on one’s computer will not be the norm, somehow we need to fit readers or other devices into our purchases to allow users a device in which to read the long form of an ebook.

f. Ideally, unlimited simultaneous user access is easiest on libraries and users. The question is, how is this affordable to each library and which business model is used?

5. Interface Features – similarities in interfaces are worthwhile, in fact, one common interface of the library’s choice would be nice.

a. One single platform for reference titles.

b. No proprietary software

c. Must be able to keyword search the text, if you can’t offer this in a pdf, then we need to find another ebook format

d. Patrons like the value added features like email, downloading, printing multiple pages at once, citing my source, and note features.

e. Sufficient internal links for TOC, index, and references within a title

f. Interoperability on devices, desktop or handheld

g. Provide persistent links to the lowest level of granularity, like an article title, chapter title, or chart/image.

h. Academic libraries enjoy the ability to set up course reserves using a variety of chapters from an ebook collection.

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