Medical eBook Publishing Trends Webinar Summary

Today I attended the MLA webinar on e-books, 2011 Medical eBook Publishing Trends, sponsored by Ovid. My notes are below.

Moderator, Mark Funk, Weill Cornell Medical Library


  • Deb Blecic, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Liz Lorbeer, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences
  • Jennie Stewart, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Dan Doody, Doody Enterprises

The current environment – Mark set the stage with some statistics on the popularity of eBooks. He discussed the digitization Waves in libraires, citing ebooks as the 4th wave.  abs/ins, ref tools, ejournals were the first 3 waves.

Why are ebooks more difficult?  Mark believes it’s in the final deliverable product.  The final product is much more complex to produce than a journal article.  It has more editing, illustrations, authors are paid, and individual sales to students are important to publishers for revenue.  All of these factors lead to a higher cost for the ebook than a journal article.

Deb Blecic –

  • purchase or rent access, with many options to do this.  Publisher vs. Aggregator, cost models, DRM, packages vs. single title.  Deb feels the DRM are better when buying from publishers.
  • Rentals – multiple options are available here as well.  Common model for textbooks, rental is current edition and edition changes mid-semester.
  • Market is very fluid. Options are in a state of change including whether a book is available via publisher or aggregator.  not all books are available in e format.
  • Consider the platform and DRM, what will serve users the best?  E sometimes comes out later than P – buy twice? pay twice?  Some ebook content is missing or has extra content
  • Optimize Access – 24/7 point-of-need, multiple users, no loss/damage, allow F/T searching and some on devices.
  • ILL is often prohibited or if allowed, implementation is difficult.  Preservation is an issue.
  • Moving forward? we want to search f/t for all library ebooks, no missing content, reasonable purchase models, reasonable DRM, preservation, ILL, etc.  We need to be proactive in shaping the future for our patrons.

Liz Lorbeer – PDA

  • PDA – no obligation browse period; find desired content and browse prior to purchase
  • A trigger is used to purchase the book – based on the time in book, print, copy, pages viewed, etc.
  • unmediated or mediated – up to library to set this up.  Mediated – librarian must approve the purchase first
  • rent to own, least, or purchase books in the PDA model (rent 1 – 7 day periods usually). Loans are usually 10 – 2% of list cost, or a pre-determined fee per use.
  • PDA is a component of Collection Development and not a replacement of the subject specialist.  Only 20% titles available in E, and less available for PDA.
  • Benefits – greater access to materials without spending more money; customize profile appropriate for the library; MARC records provided by aggregator or distributor, costs can be controlled
  • Liz suggests starting with a small pilot, perhaps based on a subject like nursing.  No one size fits all – each library’s pilot/project will be different.
  • Lister Hill’s PDA pilot was described – last 12 month published titles only, unmediated, limited to works under $175, preferred to purchase with perpetual access
  • Lots of research time involved to get this set-up.  They did this in about 4 months.

Jennie Stewart – Publisher’s Perspective

  • Fahrenheit 451?? Despite the growing trend towards E, still 48-49% of Amazon sales are in print. Increasingly the format is E.
  • Medical publishers mission still remains the same – publish the best content to meet the user needs and select a format and channel that suits the users needs so they can do their job better.  Sometimes that is P, sometimes that is E.
  • Back to the basics – who and where is the customer?  We need to fit the needs of multiple customer types with varying levels of sophistication.
  • Also need to look at the needs and expectations of the librarians.
  • This makes for a complex environment and complex decision making.
  • Deciding to make an ebook – publishers need to make the decision of the format – P, E, or E only, must also think about the platform.  This all comes back to the customer and their needs – what type of format do they want?
  • New features are often requested – interactivity, multimedia, portable, etc.
  • Discoverability – the content needs to be where the customer is or needs it to be. Librarians help point the way.  The relationship b/t publishers and librarians is critical to meeting the future needs of our users.
  • What does the future hold?  They are in a strong experimental phase and will continue with this experimentation.  They will develop new biz models but continue with some of the same as well.
  • Why are some ebooks available only direct to consumer?  Content, customer, and functionality needs.  Based on the available platforms and how they can deliver the title.

Dan Doody

  • Doody’s publishes information about books for Health Science – Doody’s Review Service (DRS), Doody’s Core Titles (DCT)
  • Doody’s gets information for it’s reports from the following:  Books@ Ovid, ebrary, eBooks on EBSCOhost, myiLibrary, 123Library, R2digital Library, STAT!Ref  and 9 publishers like Elsevier and Oxford and various societies
  • DCT lists from the last 3 years show a slight decrease in the number of ebooks available.  Dan said this was due to the embargoes publishers place on the ebook.
  • Anticipates at least 60% of books in the DCT will be in E format by 2011.
  • 2010 Survey of Health Sciences Librarians found that – 98.8% are purchasing ebooks
  • Ovid, STAT!Ref, MD Consult were the top 3 vendors.  He listed a variety of other vendors with their % of choice by librarians, but the slides were too quick for me to grab them all.
  • Will STM publishers eventually print only E versions?  No, Dan doesn’t think we will get to that point.  He feels certain types of information is still better in the print format.


Who offers downloadable books?  MyiLibrary – if you purchase simultaneous user ebooks, 2 people can have the book downloaded to their device at one given time.  Unbound Medicine is another vendor that allows downloadable titles.

How much user activity triggers a purchase in the PDA model?  Currently 7 views triggers a purchase.  If they print one page from the book, it also triggers the purchase. If they have been in the book for more than 10 minutes, they purchase the book.  Short-term loans – once the user is in the book, it’s considered a STL.  She didn’t choose this option b/c they have so many lookers and seekers.

Books with audio/sound would be great – Need to learn how this type of technology can be used.  The future may well include more books with audio/sound.  Video is being used as well, starting small but growing.

If an ebook is no longer available, how can we establish the standard of care at the given time?  Preservation is important.  Purchase models are better than rental models so the content can be kept permanently.  Libraries are nervous about titles being available on someone else’s server. We all need to do what we can to preserve ebooks. Important to archive older editions.

What are benefits of ebooks specifically to HS libraries?  HS libraries have always been on the forefront of technology, this is another way to do that.

Do patrons prefer web based vs. downloadable materials?  Depends on what they are using the content for – textbook? review? This is an area for research in the future.

One thought on “Medical eBook Publishing Trends Webinar Summary”

  1. I wasn’t able to listen to much of it- -thanks for the great summary! I am looking at the issues from both the library and the publisher point-of-view.

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