Category Archives: Vendor News

Britannica’s Overhaul

Original article in Boston Globe.  By Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe Staff / March 31, 2009

Enter Britannica
For 241 years, it’s been the gold standard of reference books, a premium-priced digest of the world’s accumulated knowledge. Now it’s being overwhelmed by an eight-year-old online upstart authored by amateurs and available at no charge. How can Encyclopaedia Britannica survive in a wiki world?

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica is preparing for the most radical overhaul in its 241-year history, and it’s recruiting its readers to do much of the work.

It’s a bid by Britannica to remain relevant at a time when the world’s most popular encyclopedia, the eight-year-old website Wikipedia, is written entirely by amateur experts. The new version of Britannica Online, set to debut this summer, will emulate the Wikipedia concept by letting subscribers make changes to any article, ranging from minor edits to near-total rewrites.

But Britannica president Jorge Cauz scoffs at the idea that he’s merely imitating his giant online rival. “I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Britannica and Wikipedia are becoming more similar,” he said. While Wikipedia is written and edited by amateurs who often work anonymously, Britannica Online articles will be overseen by professional editors. In addition, there will be no anonymity: Authors and editors will be identified by name. Cauz said this will give Britannica Online articles a credibility and authority Wikipedia can’t match.

If Wikipedia’s credibility is lower than Britannica’s, users don’t seem to mind. With its 10 million articles – 2.7 million in English – and its 275 million readers per month, Wikipedia’s scale and popularity dwarf that of Britannica’s online edition, which serves just 200,000 households and offers just 112,000 articles.

Wikipedia grew so popular partly because it’s free, while Britannica Online charges $70 a year. And Wikipedia’s array of articles is so vast because anybody can write for it. Only paying subscribers will be eligible to write for Britannica Online.

Cauz concedes that Britannica will never have as many articles as Wikipedia. But he said many Wikipedia articles are about trivial topics Britannica has no interest in covering. “They can talk about porno actors and cartoon characters as well as heart attacks,” said Cauz. “That is something we will never do.”

Instead, Britannica will still focus on its core market: schools, libraries, and homes, where people need authoritative information on important topics.

Britannica still prints a traditional multivolume encyclopedia and other reference works, but about 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from online sales. Privately held Britannica won’t reveal its revenue and earnings numbers, but Cauz said the company has turned a profit for the past five years.

The upgraded encyclopedia is set to debut this summer, but a test version is already up and running. Users who open an article are given an editing option that turns the Web browser into a mini word processor, where they can make small or large revisions. These changes are submitted to a Britannica editor, and perhaps to the article’s author.

“We have full responsibility,” said Cauz. “Every article will have to go through the rigorous editorial review of Britannica.” If the changes pass muster, they’re added to the official Britannica article, and the name of the user who made the changes is published on the website.

Cauz noted Britannica Online will allow edits of all its articles. Ironically, this will give Britannica a more open editing policy than Wikipedia’s. Despite its reputation for openness, Wikipedia permanently “locks” some articles on controversial people and subjects to prevent changes. “We want to stop . . . what we call drive-by vandalism,” said Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has gradually tightened its standards, according to Andrew Lih, a Wikipedia editor and author of a new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution.”

“When it was first started, it was completely open editing,” Lih said. “Over the years, they’ve started to put more restrictions on it, simply because as you have a larger and larger crowd, it attracts more vandals.”

For example, about 3,000 articles are “semiprotected,” meaning that they can only be modified by Wikipedia users who have been members of the site for more than four days. Wales said he’s not entirely happy with this limitation. “One of the problems with semiprotection,” he said, “is that it’s difficult for newcomers to get involved.”

The German edition of Wikipedia addressed this problem by using “flagged revisions” of sensitive articles. These can be freely modified by anybody, even Wikipedia newcomers. But the modifications are flagged for review by a trusted editor before being published.

Now Wales plans to introduce flagged revisions to the English-language version of Wikipedia. He called it “an effort to open up pages to public editing that we have not had open to public editing for several years.”

If flagged editing works, it will make Wikipedia more open to public revision. But since some articles will remain locked, Wikipedia still won’t be quite as open to revision as Britannica Online.

Another addition to Britannica Online will come even closer to the original Wikipedia model. Cauz said Britannica subscribers and authors of articles for the encyclopedia will be given access to a separate area, where they can write articles on any topic they choose. When a Britannica Online user searches for information on a topic, links to these independent articles will appear alongside the official Britannica article. Each article will carry the names of its author and anyone who’s edited it, but there will be no review by Britannica editors, and the company won’t vouch for its accuracy.

Its critics say Wikipedia’s good name has been damaged by poorly written or libelous articles posted on the site. Britannica’s new feature could put its own reputation on the line. But determined to reinvent itself, Britannica is taking the risk.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

E-book Usage Data Article

The April 1, 2009 “Off The Shelf” column features an article on E-book usage data.  The article surveyed 10 e-book vendors and aggregators for information on their usage data.  A comparative chart accompanies the article, which is only available online, on the NSR articles page.

7 vendors replied to the survey, 1 couldn’t participate due to usage data restructuring, and 2 did not reply.  The 2 no replies serve primarily the public and school library markets, so this usage chart is heavy on academic providers.

EBL titles on iPhone, iTouch

From the EBL blog:

We’ve recently announced that EBL titles can be downloaded to the Sony Reader, but did you know that EBL’s new reader is already accessible on an iPhone and iPod Touch?

Patrons can access EBL  titles on their iPhone or iPod Touch through the normal webpages.  The image view in the reader will render the full book.  Scrolling works by using two fingers. We’re planning to offer a scaled down view more suitable for mobile access later this year.

And news just in… downloading EBL ebooks to the iPhone/iPod Touch is soon to follow.  Adobe have just announced a partnership with Stanza Reader, the reader application designed for the iPhone. Read more here.

GVRL Pricing via YBP

Concerning my previous post on Gale/YBP, I had a chance to talk with John Barnes at Gale/Cengage regarding the pricing of GVRL titles through the YBP service.  According to him, GVRL prices will remain the same using various tiers, based on FTE.  Within the next month, YBP will load all of the Gale patron data into their system and this data should indicate each library’s tier level.  While searching YBP for GVRL titles, the title price, based on your library’s tier, should be displayed.  Thanks to Nader Qaimari from Gale/Cengage for commenting with the same.

YBP Customers can now Purchase Gale Titles

Great news from Gale/Cengage and YBP (Baker & Taylor).  GVRL, LitCrit and Gale Directory titles can now be purchased through YBP services.  This is wonderful news and comes on the heels of the recenet B&T and ebrary partnership.  Clearly publishers and aggregators are finally working together to make purchasing ebooks as seamless as the print book.  It’s about time!  What is unclear in the press release is the pricing of Gale titles.  Typically these are sold on a Tier model, based on FTE.  I’ll post more once I hear about the pricing.

Baker & Taylor partners with ebrary for digital distribution

Big news from Baker & Taylor.  They announced today a partnership with ebrary for an “integrated digital media platform.”  B&T will provide seamless purchase of either print or electronic content through this new platform.  The partnership also allows B&T to create it’s own digital content for distribution via the ebrary platform.What a convenience for libraries.  No longer will you spend hours tracking down ebook ISBN’s, prices, and ordering information from a multitude of websites.  Those libraries using YBP – part of the B&T family, have had the pleasure of purchasing print or electronic books through the GOBI platform since January, 2007.  The wider B&T partnership now takes this convenience across library markets. This will really become a one-stop shop once ebrary establishes their demand driven purchasing model. Perhaps patrons could use the system to choose e or p versions of titles!

Gale offers free access to Women’s History web site

From a Gale/Cengage email I received:

Free Access on our Women’s History Web site
From women in politics to women in the environment, start planning your Women’s History Month events now with great resources from Gale.Farmington Hills, Mich., Feb. 17, 2009 – In recognition of Women’s History Month in March, Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is offering free resources and activities on its Women’s History Month Web site.
Supporting the theme “Get to Know the Women Who’ve Changed Our World,” the Women’s History Month Web site is accessible at http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/ and offers free resources including activities, quizzes, biographies, a timeline, links and more to complement classroom topics.
Activities & Ideas
The site includes activities that can make Women’s History Month more meaningful.  Activities are arranged by topics and include history, geography, music, science, literature and a number of other categories, showing the influence of women in those areas.   New downloadable bookmarks, calendar and screensaver are also available.
Weekly Quiz
One of the most used and enjoyed features of the Web site is the quiz.  Each week, a new quiz based on women throughout history and their achievements will be posted.
Examples of the types of questions:
She helped bring provisions to soldiers on the front lines and set up the Bureau of Records. She is:
Clara Barton
Florence Nightingale
Jane Addams
Best known for her series of well-loved children’s books, this writer published her first book at the age of 65. Her books, still popular today, are autobiographical tales of her own childhood as a pioneer girl.
Jane Austen
Laura Ingalls Wilder
J. K. Rowling
(Correct answers are Florence Nightingale and Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Biographies
From women of the past like Abigail Adams and Joan of Arc, to present day notables including Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, biographies of many influential women are included in the site’s biographies section (http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/bio/).  Each entry gives detailed information including birth date and location, details on personal life and career, and resources for further information.
For the Classroom
Free lesson plans, activities to engage students and the latest Gale tools for the classroom are available at Galeschools.com.
Featured Titles
Visit http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/featured_titles/ for a list of Gale titles that will help students gain a deeper appreciation for Women’s History.
Timeline
The timeline available at http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/timeline/ features milestones in women’s history from ancient times through the present, commemorating such events as Queen Isabella creating a unified Spain, Susan B. Anthony crusading for women’s rights and the founding of fashion magazine Elle.
Links
Click on http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/links/ for links to other Web pages created by and for women and girls.

For more information, please contact Linda Busse at linda.busse@cengage.com.

New audio interview – Leslie Lees, ebrary

A new audio interview has been posted to NSR’s interviews page.  This one features Leslie Lees, VP-Content and Market Development, ebrary.  Leslie and I discussed methods of ebook purchasing that involve patrons and what ebrary is doing to plan for these new business models.  Check it out, it’s absolutely the best thing you’ll hear all week!

NSR interviews are generally 15 – 20 minutes in length.  I recommend you download the mp3 file, then listen.

ebrary Creating Patron Driven Purchasing Model

At the ALAMW Conference I sat in on a brainstorming session with ebrary folks and about 50 librarians.  The topic was patron driven/initiated purchasing models.  ebrary is in the beginning stages of creating a model and wanted to get feedback from librarians.  Some common themes that came up included:

budgets – librarians weary of budget control, who has the right to buy, how to budget, which budget, and what happens when we run out of money, is the service turned off?

access – when is the book purchased? first click, after 5/10 minutes?  how much “free” time does a user have to browse a title before they decide to access/pay for it? is it just one user or simultaneous, and how does price change that?

usage – what type of usage statistics will be available?  these will be important to analyze the cost effectiveness of this program.  can we get usage stats on printed pages? downloads? pages viewed? and, what consitutes a “usage” in terms of purchasing the ebook?

ILL – purchasing ebooks essentially means we no longer have ILL rights.  So, will ebrary work this model into consortial agreements or could ILL fees be instituted?

pay per view/rent-to-own – paying a smaller fee to use the ebook one time, two times, etc. If the book price is reached, the library would own it, if not, its a cheaper way to provide access to many more titles.  Librarians were concerned about spending money on intangible items and how to educate the auditors and penny pinchers about this new model.

Thanks to ebrary, I was able to get some comments from one of the moderators.

Allen McKiel, Dean of Library and Media Services at Western Oregon University summarized his thoughts on one of the ebrary Patron Driven Models sessions.  He said:

I heard librarians flirting with pay-per-view in a number of their comments as Leslie plied them with leading questions. The responses labored around a mixed subscription/pay-per-some-features model until patrons had encumbered a charge that was equal to the price of the book, in which case the library would then ‘own’ the book. Librarians find it hard to realize that e-books no longer require charging structures that are based in physical objects. The conversation from my hearing leaned toward resolution in a pay-per-view model. Five hands shot up when Leslie asked if anyone was interested in pay-per-view. Then he dropped the subject and never went back to it. I think librarians may finally be ready to talk about pay-per-view as a real option. Pay-per-view compliments research and educational environments. Discovery and learning are facilitated by access to information particularly information that is produced by the academy. Pay-per-view would optimize access and thereby facilitate research, the production of information, and learning. Publishers would provide an editorial selection role based in their being able to identify resources that researchers and students would find useful since they would receive compensation for their service proportional to use of their publications by faculty and students.

I think publishers have a window of opportunity to develop access to everything on a pay-per-view model that can evolve gradually using a mixed subscription/pay-per-view model. A variety of collections available through subscription/pay-per-view would permit reasonable access to a variety of academic institutions at affordable prices that would also permit reasonable profit margins for publishers. It would also permit publishers to experiment with models that would optimize their revenue while simultaneously optimizing access for all students and faculty. Library budgets that are driven more directly by faculty and student use would be more likely to increase than budgets dependent upon librarian requests.