Howdy from the beautiful Rocky Mountains! The Rocky Mountain chapter of SLA is thrilled to contribute this week’s FutureReady365 posts. We are a small, diverse community of 150+ members spread across a four-state region (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota). We have a medley of posts from public school, government, higher education and independent professionals that we hope will prompt conversations, comments and thoughts on being future ready. Happy reading!
by Charles Leckenby, Rocky Mountain Chapter, Education Division
Denver Public Schools’ Educational Technology and Library Services (ETLS) department is responsible for creating collection development policy for the District’s 140+ school libraries. For the past 6 months, deep discussion has taken place about how we want to begin introducing eBooks into our school collections. Like so many other school districts, DPS has only purchased a small number of titles, “drops in the bucket,” as Lisa Guernsey describes it in her School Library Journal article “Are Ebooks any good?” (June 1, 2011). And like the “tidal wave” she predicts is coming, ETLS is preparing for an eventual surge in eBook purchasing. To this end, Janne Cookman, senior library systems analyst for ETLS, drew up the following recommendations for our school librarians for purchasing eBooks. By creating consistency in purchasing decisions, workflow in our cataloging and acquisitions department would experience less disruption.
Following are the recommendations given to our school librarians:
eBook Purchasing Considerations
- Selection: Consider your overall collection development goals. Is this title or package a good fit? Will the electronic format enhance the reader’s experience? Do you expect the eBook version to get better usage (that is, be easier to access and circulate more frequently) than the print version? Does the district already offer something similar through its subscription databases (for example, TumbleBooks, Teen Health and Wellness, etc.)?
- Access: Currently Library Services supports access to eBooks only through MARC records in the LION/Encore catalog. The plus is all setup and configuration work with the vendor is done for you. The minus is LION/Encore always displays the item status as “available online,” even if the copy is being read by someone else at the time.
- Platforms: All eBooks are web-hosted on the vendor’s platform and cannot be moved to a competing vendor’s platform. Consider the management and training issues associated with having multiple platforms. How will you gather your circulation statistics? Do the different platforms have specific system requirements? Are the search, read, etc. features similar, easy to understand and use? Do the vendors provide online FAQs, tutorials and tech support?
- Vendors: Like print books, eBooks may be purchased directly from the publisher or from an aggregator. Aggregators partner with multiple publishers to supply content and provide a uniform platform. The major advantage of an aggregator is having a single interface to host all of your titles, and a single-point-of-management for selection, acquisition, cataloging and circulation.
- Hosting fees: If there are hosting fees, how much are they and are they paid up front, yearly, or built into the titles per copy pricing? For tracking expenditures, keep in mind that hosting fees are invoiced directly to ETLS and deducted from your school’s mill levy funds.
- Purchasing models: The options are lease or own. If the eBook content is leased, you will need to withdraw the records when the lease expires to avoid “dead links” and frustrated readers.
- Online reading: If online reading is through a wireless connection, consider possible bandwidth and network traffic issues. Other possible issues – Flash-based or proprietary online readers.
- Simultaneous Access: This applies only to online reading and the options are single-user, multi-user or unlimited simultaneous access. Single-access means the eBook can be read by one person at a time, just like a print book. Multi-access usually is 5 or less, and unlimited simultaneous access is unlimited.
- Downloading: This applies to offline reading. The majority of eBook fiction titles are single access. For popular fiction, consider buying multiple copies. Some publishers allow downloadable books to be shared, usually among an individual reader’s personal devices. For school libraries, downloading to shared-use lab or library computers is not recommended because it ties up single-access licenses for the minimum checkout period.
- Devices and file formats: These mainly apply to offline reading and can get very complicated. Adobe Digital Editions and .EPUB are the most flexible and compatible.
- Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Copyright protection: These apply to offline reading. Digital and copy rights are set by the publisher, not the vendor, and business models are highly variable. For some publishers, 10% copy rights means each user is allowed to copy 10% of the content. For others, it means 10% may be copied over the life of the eBook. Make sure you understand the publisher’s limitations.
With the state of eBook publishing still so much in flux, ETLS will need to pay close attention, and our collection development policy direction will need to remain flexible.
Charlie Leckenby manages Denver Public Schools’ professional library and assists with collection development across the school district.